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.

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Chart for stowaways – 2 March 2019

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Agenda EP
  2. Ladytron – Horrorscope
  3. The Beloved – It’s Alright Now
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Flying Totems
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Arrival Home
  6. Ladytron – Far from Home
  7. Ladytron – The Animals
  8. Gesaffelstein feat. The Weeknd – Lost In The Fire
  9. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  10. Dave Gahan – Saw Something / Deeper and Deeper

Retro chart for stowaways – 11 October 2003

Fifteen years ago this week!

  1. Dave Gahan – I Need You
  2. Goldfrapp – Strict Machine
  3. Richard X feat. Kelis – Finest Dreams
  4. Kraftwerk – Tour de France 2003
  5. Madonna – Hollywood
  6. Kosheen – All in My Head
  7. Paul van Dyk – Nothing But You
  8. Delerium feat. Jaël – After All
  9. Ladytron – Blue Jeans
  10. Tomcraft – Loneliness

Dave Gahan – Paper Monsters

It’s surprising in a way how long it took Dave Gahan to release his first solo album. After more than twenty years as Depeche Mode‘s frontman, he must have had a pretty good idea of how to write a hit, but never seemed to have got himself together. Or possibly was too busy with other side projects, such as taking narcotics.

Anyway, Dirty Sticky Floors was the dirty, grungy opening single, a fantastic track, which, if it weren’t for the bass line and of course the vocalist, could have been any contemporary pop-rock crossover act. It was, entirely justifiably, a substantial hit single, breaking the top twenty in the UK and peaking at number 6 in Germany.

But of course he could pull off a single – could he also extend that to a full album? Well, Hold On is pretty promising – not quite as catchy as the opening track, but still a strong and memorable bluesy song.

There does seem to be a bit of a downward spiral happening here though, as the mellow and forgettable A Little Piece follows. It’s pleasant enough; it just never really goes anywhere, and if the album had more like this, then it really wouldn’t be a great debut.

Fortunately, it doesn’t – final single Bottle Living turns up next, lifting the mood. This is, in style, very similar to the opening track, but a lot darker – there’s nothing electronic about this track, it’s rock through and through. Very good rock though. There are still valid criticisms, such as the fact that the lyrics don’t entirely make sense, but that’s alright once in a while.

“I’m back in the room with the two-way door,” isn’t exactly a great opening line either, but Black and Blue Again is a pretty good track otherwise. There’s some nice slide guitar work, and some very clear shades of Depeche Mode at times, but there’s nothing really wrong with that – he did have a clear audience for this release, after all.

This is a thoughtfully structured album, and Stay leads the second half, with strong echoes of Ultra. There are no drums really, more just gentle percussion. It’s a sweet, meandering song, with an ever-present air of grunge hiding in the background.

Then comes second single I Need You, which is, hands down, the best song on here. It’s a deliciously summery love song, and a gentle trippy electronic beat runs all the way through, with very understated guitar work and shimmering synthesisers. It’s really quite brilliant.

Bitter Apple is a bit of an odd song, but it works nicely here among its neighbours, including Hidden Houses. These may not be the best tracks that Gahan has ever recorded, but they should be reasonably high on the list, actually. Goodbye, too, hardly leaves you at the end of the album with an uplifted feeling, but it does round Gahan’s first solo work out comprehensively at least. Paper Monsters may tail off a little at times, but all round, it is an exceptional debut release, and well worth a listen.

You can still find Paper Monsters at all major retailers.