Depeche Mode – Sounds of the Universe (Bonus Tracks & Remixes)

Depeche Mode don’t release a lot of b-sides, and when they do, they are a little intriguing. On the back of their 2009 comeback single Wrong, they included the jaunty and intriguing Oh Well, and then proceeded to follow it up with a whole album of b-sides and remixes as the second disc of Sounds of the Universe. It appeared ten years ago this week, and we reviewed the first disc exactly five years ago this week.

It opens with Light, which is pretty good. Definitely b-side material, but good nonetheless. It’s a catchy song, but I don’t think anyone would argue that it should have been on an album. The Sun and the Moon and the Stars is nice, though, and sees principle songwriter Martin L. Gore delivering the lead vocal. In many ways, with the bleak electro backing, it sounds like something from his solo back catalogue, and again, I’m not sure it’s really Depeche Mode album material, but it’s a nice song, and it’s always good to get another Gore vocal.

This was, of course, the era when Dave Gahan, coming back from his solo material, was now able to contribute to the songwriting progress as well. So, having contributed three tracks to the main album (Hole to Feed, Come Back, and Miles Away / The Truth Is), there wasn’t quite as much space for Gore’s material. So most of what’s on the second disc is his, and normally with a Gahan vocal.

Ghost is another of these, with a catchy vocal and some wonderfully dark electronic backing. You can tell the quality is high here though – again, while Sounds of the Universe is far from Depeche Mode‘s finest hour, the standard is actually pretty high – and Ghost isn’t quite up there.

But we do get a decent range of Depeche Mode‘s signature sounds here – and one of the less well known of those is Martin L. Gore‘s abstract instrumentals, of which Esque is one. Running at just over two minutes, it’s a pleasant interlude, which tends to be pretty much all they’re ever used for, but it’s a good example of the style.

Let’s face it, though – Oh Well is the reason you’re interested in this bonus disc. Frankly, why this wasn’t on the main album is a bit of a mystery to me – maybe they just didn’t quite feel it fit somehow. This is, though, the first ever songwriting collaboration between Dave Gahan and Martin L. Gore, and it also features a joint vocal from the two of them, alongside some gloriously dirty electronics. It’s brilliant – better, actually, than several of the tracks on the main release.

That’s it for the bonus tracks – the remaining tracks are all remixes, and of an odd selection of tracks. First up, Efdemin turn up for a dubby (but full-vocal) mix of Corrupt. It’s alright, but Depeche Mode remixes are often pretty inscrutable, and this is a good example of that. It’s fairly relaxed, fully of soft beats and vocal samples, and not a huge amount else.

Minilogue‘s Earth mix of In Chains is easier to understand, reworking the opening track from the main album. While it was reasonable as an opening track, it isn’t the best source material that Depeche Mode have ever provided, but this turns out to be a spacey house mix, with huge amounts of reverb and some more dub influence on the vocals, but it bounces along pleasantly for eight minutes or so.

But while some of their remixes may be particularly challenging, others do hit their mark, and you can trust The Orb‘s Thomas Fehlmann to be the first to do that here, with his excellent Flowing Ambient Mix of Little Soul. It retains large chunks of the original, but adds a huge throbbing synth line that just chugs along gently for nine and a half minutes. It’s pure brilliance, of a sort that only seems to happen once in a while with Depeche Mode‘s remixes.

The remaining remixes are good, but don’t really break new ground. SixToes‘ somewhat anarchic string version of Jezebel is enjoyable, and it’s definitely an odd definition of the “remix”, as it’s difficult to figure out exactly who would play this and where, but it’s also very pleasant. Electronic Periodic‘s Dark Drone Mix of Perfect is an odd combination of electro and house, but works well too.

Finally, Caspa turns up to rework lead single Wrong. This is a pretty good glitchy version, although probably not quite up to the standard of some of the versions on the single, such as Trentemøller‘s take. But it closes out a decent collection in appropriate fashion – there’s not much special here, but there’s nothing really bad either.

All in all, the bonus tracks and remixes from Sounds of the Universe are pretty good. There were some better remixes spread across the singles, but this isn’t a bad collection. Both the bonus tracks and the remixes have plenty of sounds from Depeche Mode‘s universe (excuse the pun) to offer, and so it’s definitely worth hearing. Above all, this is where you can find Oh Well.

You can find all of these tracks on Sounds of the Universe (Deluxe), which is still available from major retailers, including the original album and also the demos, which we reviewed previously here.

Preview – The Beloved

I’m pretty sure I’ve mused before on how bands reach legendary status a couple of decades after their peak fame, and hopefully The Beloved are on the verge of achieving that end. They have recently reissued all their singles from Happiness, Blissed Out, and Conscience as digital releases with bonus tracks, and now the intriguing Your Love Takes Me Higher / Awoke 12″ just turned up for Record Store Day!

Due to the part of the world I’m in, there’s pretty much zero chance of me ever hearing it, so for now here’s the original version of side A:

Chart for stowaways – 9 March 2019

Here’s the latest album chart:

  1. Ladytron – Ladytron
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
  4. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Possum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  6. The Prodigy – No Tourists
  7. Gary Numan – I Assassin
  8. Moby – Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.
  9. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths
  10. Inspiral Carpets – Devil Hopping

So it begins

Particularly observant readers amongst you might have noticed that I missed Monday’s regular post. There’s a good chance this might keep happening, unfortunately. I’ve got a whole load more posts to finish off for you, but the regular ones are likely to tail off a bit, as I’m running very low on time right now. So, sorry in advance for any upcoming intermissions!

Tony Di Bart – The Real Thing

History wasn’t particularly kind to Tony Di Bart. The singing dentist – or wait, wasn’t that Dr. Alban? He had his moment in the limelight a quarter of a century ago, as his number one hit The Real Thing was released 25 years ago this week.

Antonio Carmine Di Bartolomeo, for that was his real name, wasn’t a dentist, actually, he was selling bathrooms in Buckinghamshire. In spite of the name, he’s actually British. His short-lived musical career started with The Real Thing, originally released on 12″ in 1993 including the original mix and two low-budget remixes by Rhyme Time, and was a minor chart hit.

But then, in mid-1994, the Joy Brothers turned up and remixed The Real Thing, turning it into a fantastic piece of mid-1990s pop-dance. “If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody baby,” sings Di Bart. Grammatically incorrect, but it’s a great catchy pop lyric, and he has a great voice – it works extremely well with the dance backing. It’s also aged pretty well, surprisingly.

It hit number one, and was a sizeable hit around Europe, but the singles that followed over the next three years performed progressively less well each time they appeared. There was, ultimately, just one idea here – a great song with an interesting dance mix – and while the Joy Brothers turned up for a second go-around on the near-top-twenty hit Do It, the big names who turned up to rework the other tracks failed to make the same impact.

After the Joy Brothers‘ version, New 7″ Dance, we’re treated to the New 7″ Radio, a bluesy version full of funky guitar work and stings. It’s not unpleasant, but honestly it doesn’t work nearly as well as the dance version, where they have stripped out all the warbling and stuck to the song.

The funny thing about Joy Brothers is that they never really seem to have done much else. Richard Lane had had some minor success as a house musician in the early nineties, but has little of note to his CV, apart from this. So this is really a one-hit wonder on many levels. The full Joy Brothers version comes next, and really is a joy to hear. Where the radio mix had been tight, while working well, this version is huge and spacious.

The pleasantly tribal house mix by Rhyme Time follows, interestingly sharing elements from Joy Brothers‘ later version, suggesting that theirs was in fact a remix of a remix. This is, I suppose, the remix that got people’s attention initially, and so maybe goes some of the way towards explaining what went wrong next – it seems he needed a strong production team around him, and for whatever reason, album Falling for You, which finally appeared two years later, failed to include the right people. Indeed, his self-produced album included a second disc with five uncredited remixes, and that’s surely the only thing most people would have been interested in?

Finally on the single comes the original Underground Mix by Rhyme Time, now renamed as 12″ Dub Mix. It’s a bouncy house dub mix, but it doesn’t really offer much of interest. With its broad organ pad middle section, it’s difficult to imagine many DJs playing it even, but who knows? That dub closed the single, and pretty much closed Tony Di Bart‘s career.

Back to bathroom sales it is, then. But it’s a shame – Di Bart showed a lot of promise with The Real Thing, and it definitely deserved its success. It’s just a pity that he was never really able to capitalise on it, and it’s disappointing that the world no longer really remembers Tony Di Bart.

Fortunately, common sense has prevailed, and The Real Thing is still available to stream or download from all major retailers, alongside another random single from 1999.