According to the band, there are no plans to release succeeding volumes in a “Best Of” series, making the “Volume 1” in the title somewhat of a joke. However, as most Depeche Mode fans know, this collection, and even the previous hits albums, haven’t even begun to explore real depth of a band that has stood the test of time and laughed in the face of traditionalism. One would think that a band well over 25 years old would be in its declining years, but 2005’s Playing the Angel went a long way toward dispelling those feelings. That collection and the subsequent tour CD and DVD proved to the world that DM were back and more relevant than ever. And when that happens, a retrospective can’t be too far behind.
The debate with hits collections, as always, is over song selection. The thing to know about Depeche Mode fans and the songs they love is that they represent a double-edged sword. DM’s catalog is do rich and deep, with so many fan favorites, that they can’t all be represented to make everyone happy. While no one can argue the inclusion of hits like “Strangelove” and “Just Can’t Get Enough,” there are plenty of other songs whose exclusion some will take issue with. On this particular “Best Of,” the most notable absence is any song from Black Celebration. Maybe it’s just that songs from Black Celebration work better as a complete thematic whole, “Stripped” following “A Question of Time” and “But Not Tonight” succeeding “New Dress.” I don’t know, but I’m still trying to fathom a “Best of Depeche Mode” without “Fly on the Windscreen.”
If other DM fans out there are like me, they’ve probably created their own greatest hits collection, either as a mixtape, mix CD, or as an iPod playlist. Just for kicks, let’s go over what mine would include. Just so we’re clear, this isn’t necessarily what I think should have gone on the final record. All in all, the eighteen tracks selected for this collection are a fairly representative and fair look at a spectacular and legendary pop band that probably still isn’t given the due it deserves. That said, here’s what else I would include. Oh, let’s call it, The Best Of, Volume 1.5. Early single “Get the Balance Right” is a must in my book for anything that is going to `represent’ DM, be it a greatest hits collection or documentary. To me it is the single that had DM turning a corner into what would be their eventual fully realized sound and lyrical themes. It was only released as a single, and on the odd US only album release People Are People. I would be hard pressed to choose, however, between the single version and the extended remix. The same holds true for the extended version of “Shake the Disease” whose 7″ version is actually included on Volume 1. “Lie to Me,” “Stories of Old” and “Shame” are three grossly underrated tracks, particularly the first one of the bunch. “Lie to Me” is what forever linked the band to the adjective `sinuous.’
Then we’re back to Black Celebration. After thinking about this one a bit, I’d almost say I have to agree with these songs’ exclusion, only because of how strongly they fit into their original format. Can “A Question of Time” be separated from “A Question of Lust?” Can “Dressed in Black” be ripped away from “New Dress?” I seriously doubt these songs would have the same impact. Only “Stripped” as done by Rammstein had any kind of exorcising quality. I would, however, throw in some fantastic b-sides. “Happiest Girl” and “Dangerous” are just as good if not better (no hate mail, please) than some of the songs on its album companion, Violator. Though they didn’t write these songs, “Route 66” and Alan Wilder’s version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata #14” are two vastly different sides of the band at their peak. And just for dramatic purposes, thanks to 101, I don’t think any Depeche Mode collection would be complete without having “Pimpf” as an intro.
As far as the real “Best Of,” the one bearing the misleading `Volume 1″ tag, at its best it is a worthy representation of 25 years of pop mastery. At its worst, it is a reminder that, given any 18 songs from this legendary band, whether your favorites or not, Depeche Mode will always be relevant. From “New Life” to “Suffer Well,” there are no bad songs on this record, only great song after great song. They’ve done a box set of singles, but I think what might be good is to follow the model of New Order with their box set, Retro with a separate disc for every taste. One for critics’ choices, one for fans’ choices, one for live tracks and one for remixes. Maybe, after all, the `Volume 1′ is supposed to prompt us all to make our own second, third and however many subsequent volumes you want. I know I will.
Depeche Mode- Catching Up With Depeche Mode
Echo & the Bunnymen- More Songs to Learn and Sing
New Order- Singles