Depeche Mode – Heaven

With something of a surprise, Depeche Mode‘s 2013 comeback single was Heaven. Where were the dark and grizzly electronics? Or the guitars? There was none of that here. But if you were able to remain open minded, Heaven was really something of a return to form.

The main track, with its gospel vocals and driving piano part, is really rather brilliant – and disappointing though much of the accompanying album Delta Machine may have been, the single is definitely among the best tracks on there. It’s quite unlike what we’re used to from Depeche Mode, but that’s certainly not a bad thing.

The b-side All That’s Mine also appears on the deluxe version of the album, and is a Dave Gahan penned track. I’m not going to get into who is the better writer between him and Martin L. Gore, but this particular example certainly isn’t their finest hour. The chorus has a nice hook to it, again with a bit of a gospel feel, but the verses just feel like standard b-side fodder. Or would do, if Depeche Mode were in the habit of regularly doing b-sides.

The remix EP features five tracks – once again, the single version, followed by a great version by Owlie, where they have basically stripped out everything except the vocals and replaced it with chilled out but contemporary synths. If I didn’t know how much saying it would upset every DM fan on the planet, I’d almost be tempted to suggest it’s better than the original.

Thomas Fehlmann‘s Steps to Heaven remix is a little more trippy and a lot more spacious, but it somehow lacks the hooks of the earlier remix. It’s still very enjoyable, although it’s difficult to see how something at this low a tempo would really set the clubs alight.

Neither would Blawan‘s remix. Depeche Mode have a long tradition of commissioning slightly off-kilter remixes, and this is one of them. It’s good, don’t get me wrong – there’s something really rather fun about its grimy synth sounds and bizarre rhythm. But it’s difficult to see who would ever play it – the popular view is surely that remixes are for playing in clubs, but I really can’t see this one ever being played anywhere. Mind you, Heaven wasn’t exactly the biggest chart hit on the planet.

The final version comes from Matthew Dear and Audion, and is the least exciting of the lot. It’s almost difficult to know why it needed so many people to do it, given that for the most part it’s basically just the vocal and a drum pattern. After a while some nice chirpy electronics turn up, but there still isn’t a huge amount to it.

So Heaven was an odd choice for comeback single, although Depeche Mode have always made commercially questionable decisions in favour of doing what’s right artistically. But it’s a good song, and a couple of the remixes turned out nicely too. And it’s always good to have Depeche Mode back.

You can find both Heaven packages at all standard retailers – the single is here at Amazon, and the remix EP is here. If you were unlucky enough to miss the Beginner’s guide to Depeche Mode, don’t forget to check it out here.