Speak and Spell
Music For the Masses
Website: Depeche Mode
The Inside Pulse:
Although often overlooked in the faces of other ’80s mega-stars like U2 and Bon Jovi, Depeche Mode used to play the same arenas and sell a good chunk of albums in their own right. Whether to celebrate the band or to cash in, Rhino has begun reissuing Depeche Mode’s back catalog, starting with Speak and Spell (1981), Music For the Masses (1987), and Violator (1990). Each disc is fully remastered and includes a DVD audio mix in 5.1, as well as a piece of an accompanying year-by-year documentary.
The bonus tracks included with these discs are mostly familiar to Depeche Mode fans, as many of them were included on the CD releases and re-releases of the original albums. And with the exception of Speak and Spell, there isn’t that much of a sonic difference from the original masters. The question remains: is it worth it to Depeche Mode fans to re-purchase classic albums they’ve owned for years, and is it worth it to casual fans of Depeche Mode to splurge on these deluxe, expanded editions?
Positives: If nothing else, all of the reissues are worth the purchase price for the documentary chunk alone. Unlike a Behind the Music-style tabloid rundown of who was sleeping with whom and how many drugs were floating around (although we know there was plenty), each half-hour segment focuses squarely on the creation of the album, the reaction of the media and the fanbase, and a peek into the enthusiasm of the band as a whole. Yes, all three of the albums are classics and each for their own reasons, so it never hurts to hear them in a rather pleasant 5.1 mix. But it’s the combination of great music, amped-up packaging, and in-depth study of the albums themselves that makes them stunning.
Hands-down, this is one of the greatest reissue ideas on the market. The anticipation of seeing the next section of the documentary is like a built-in advertisement for the entire set.
Negatives: There’s not much new on the reissues that hasn’t been heard before or released in another form — this is Depeche Mode, after all, who is somewhere near the head of the pack in sheer volume of singles, b-sides, and remix material available. It’s also a disappointment that the bonus tracks are only on the DVD and not the CD. And less a negative than a whine, releasing the reissues outside of chronological order makes one cranky to see what went on from 1981-1987.
Cross-breed: Not nearly as in-depth as the Beatles Anthology discs (sorry, no outtakes of sneezing and humming), but a step above Rhino’s Talking Heads reissues from early this year.
Reason to Buy: Well, it’s time to answer that question. It’s highly recommended that huge Depeche Mode fans replace their discs with these reissues, just for the documentary alone. Casual fans? There’s no reason not to plunk down a few dollars more for these deluxe editions — they’re worth it and more.