I don’t even know when, how, or where I got whole piles of Depeche Mode demos from – they must be floating around somewhere. This set is rather special, because – as may not have been entirely clear from the review I wrote a couple of months back – Construction Time Again is one of my favourite DM albums.
As is often the case, I’m not sure what order these are in, or even whether I’ve got a complete set. First up here is And Then…, sung by Martin L. Gore in a really sweet broken down form. It’s tempting to suggest this should have been released somewhere as an alternative version – it really is that good. Perhaps not up to the standard of the original, but pretty special nevertheless.
Second is the entirely questionable Cliché (Until You Sow the Seeds), which consists mainly of a very bouncy bass line and some very silly lyrics (“we’re about as similar as cheese and chalk,”) delivered – I think – by Dave Gahan and Martin L. Gore in a dreary monotone. It’s perhaps not quite as bad as I make it sound, but it certainly would have stood out on Construction Time Again like a sore thumb.
Eventually that comes to an end, and we get an early rendition of album opener Love, in Itself. It’s charming, laid back, and sounds ever so slightly as though it’s played on a Casio keyboard circa 1983. Well, in fairness it could well have been. Martin’s vocal doesn’t quite do it justice, but it still sounds like the beginnings of a good song. If they spent the next couple of months banging pots and pans against railway tracks and sampled the resulting sounds to replace the naff keyboards, they might have something rather special here. Oh, they already did.
Next up a completely unexpected synth riff announces an early version of Told You So, which also shows a bit of experimental promise with massive thwacking hand-claps and occasional added noises. It’s not the strongest song ever, but it’s one of which I’m rather fond, and even in demo form you can here something in it. The tempo gets rather confused in the middle section, but even that is forgivable.
The last of this set is Pipeline. In its completed album form, this is a spooky track brought to life by real-world ambient sampling and hitting things, so I was almost hesitant to listen to the demo version in case it somehow spoilt the track. In reality it’s another great alternative version, with a bit of Casio keyboard backing over a great warping bass line. In spite of the cheesier elements it’s actually rather brilliant.
It’s actually rather disappointing that these weren’t released alongside the deluxe version of the album – they’re a great accompaniment to the final tracks. Highly recommended.