Tuesday Ten: 176: Depeche Mode covers

I’ve had this on my “to do” list of Tuesday Tens for about two years, but to be honest I’ve been awaiting the right moment to use it. But with a new (rather lacklustre) DM album, the O2 shows this week (where I finally see them live after years of waiting), and an intriguing new cover released this past week, it has finally got me inspired to complete it and get it posted.

Playlists:
Spotify
 YouTube

It was initially inspired, by the way, by hearing the godawful Lacuna Coil version of Enjoy The Silence, that the New York Post put in their “top 100 covers ever” – and indeed a couple of others from this list make it in, too.

There are countless covers – and an entire website devoted to listing them all – and rather more tribute albums than I ever expected, too. Needless to say, some covers are much better than others: and to ensure some variety, I’m dealing with ten different DM songs (as opposed to multiple versions of the same song).


Lacuna Coil
Enjoy The Silence
Karmacode

I’ll come clean now – bands like Lacuna Coil were never my thing. I’ve long since been bored by the various female-fronted gothic metal bands that were all the rage for some time in the last decade, although Lacuna Coil appear to have had rather more staying power than most. However this cover just results in a bland re-tread of the original, with most of the synth hooks buried under the morass of guitars and the vocals have none of the gravitas of Dave Gahan. Intriguingly, though, their cover of Dubstar’s Stars is actually really quite great, so they can treat covers better!


Rammstein
Stripped
For The Masses

The best of the tribute albums was the outstanding For The Masses from 1998, where various alternative bands of the time – and it was a really eclectic list! – took on various Martin Gore-penned songs. Perhaps the biggest stylistic shock on the album was the then-still-very-much-new-to-our-ears Rammstein, who tore apart Stripped and rebuilt in their image, and it remains one of the few entirely English language songs in their discography. Rather than the delicate, sweeping melodies and unusual sampling of the original, Rammstein turned it into a stomping dancefloor monster, with rather more of a hint of malevolence and making the sexuality and sleaziness only hinted at in the original oh-so-more overt. This was also of note for the enormously controversial video, which used Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous Olympic film Olympia (which also, of course, was used for Nazi propaganda), and saw Rammstein denounced as far-right apologists by the NME (who had obviously never listened to anything else by Rammstein, or read any of their interviews…).


Johnny Cash
Personal Jesus
American IV: The Man Comes Around

In his final years, Johnny Cash, encouraged by Rick Rubin, laid down a number of albums in the American series where he re-interpreted other artists songs to frankly quite extraordinary effect, and indeed the handful of new songs he added were also quite brilliant – the latter point rammed home here by the opening title track, which is quite simply one of Cash’s greatest ever compositions. But in addition to that and the rightly celebrated cover of Hurt, his take on one of DM’s best known songs is also pretty amazing. All of the synths are stripped away, replaced with a bluesy guitar rhythm, and a piano bubbling away in the background. But the song is of course made by Cash’s deep, emotional vocals, and like all of the greatest covers he did, he switches the focus and meaning towards some kind of extraordinary, devotional hymn.


Smashing Pumpkins
Never Let Me Down Again
Siamese Dream (Deluxe Edition)

Of all the DM songs, though, I’m most precious about this one – long since my favourite song of theirs, I couldn’t say exactly why I love it so much, other than that it is possibly the best balance the band ever hit between emotional strength and fragility, the show of both love and despair for their emotional protector. Needless to say it has been covered a fair bit, too, and Billy Corgan and his band covered this originally as the B-side to their single Rocket, and eventually resurfaced on the recent re-issue of Siamese Dream (and inbetween appearing on For The Masses). Like Cash, Corgan stripped the song right down, and once again the beauty of the original shines through. A sign of how much DM liked the cover can perhaps be shown by Corgan appearing onstage with DM to perform it.


Diskonnekted
To Have And To Hold
Hotel Existence

It wasn’t intended like this, but there are few of DM’s moodier, darker album cuts in this list – but then I guess most bands will aim for the singles and better known songs when it comes to covers. Not everyone has, mind. On For The Masses, Deftones did a marvellously brooding cover of this song, but I’m plumping here for a newer cover. Belgium’s Diskonnekted have been around for a while, but have always seemed somewhat underappreciated – their varied styles perhaps making it more difficult for some to get a hold on what they do. Broadly, they sit within the industrial/futurepop realm, but add in all kinds of influences that make them often difficult to describe. But this version, anyway, lets a thunderous rhythm dominate the track, with the vocals echoing deep in the mix (pretty much the opposite of what DM usually do), and it makes for a satisfying take on a song I perhaps haven’t listened to as much as others in this list in the past.


Collide
I Feel You
These Eyes Before

While Collide’s covers album (that this comes from) was an interesting mix of sources, I have to admit that a fair bit of it left me cold – after all, covers frequently require an appreciation of the originals, and seeing as I can’t stand Pink Floyd, David Essex or The Moody Blues, much of this didn’t really work for me. But one track in particular where this album absolutely fizzed with energy was this cover. It doesn’t do a great deal with it, to be honest – but the slinky, sexy feel of Karin’s vocals, coupled with Statik’s electronic trickery brings out all of the brilliance of Collide and, of course, the brilliance of the original material.


The Saturdays
Just Can’t Get Enough
Chasing Lights

Ah, there is always one song totally taken out of context by mainstream pop artists for one reason or another. All Saints infamously didn’t know that Under The Bridge was about heroin addiction, and here you get the feeling that The Saturdays didn’t quite understand that this song is about teenage frustration, or in other words horny teenagers who aren’t getting laid enough. The Saturdays made it sound as if they weren’t getting enough shoes.


Atrocity
People Are People
Werk 80 II

German metallers Atrocity have now released two albums of 80s covers, and their choice of covers has been interesting to say the least (A-Ha, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, D-A-F, among many others). This track opened the second album, and is a symphonic metal take on the original. It is a perfectly serviceable cover, as it happens – and it has to be borne in mind that while the original song is an insanely catchy one, it’s plea for tolerance and understanding is hardly Martin Gore’s finest lyrical hour…


Nouvelle Vague
Master and Servant
3

Perhaps the oddest band – and cover – in the list. This French band specialise in drastic re-interpretations of various, mainly eighties, songs either into bossa-nova rhythms or, like in this case acoustic ballads. To put it mildly, in this case it totally changes the whole feel of the song, removing almost all trace of the subversive, political and BDSM themes of the original and turning into a breathy, dreamy, quintessentially French song. Even with Martin Gore adding vocal assistance to the cover, I much prefer the original…


Ghost
Waiting for The Night
Infestissumam (Japanese version)

Violator was, of course, the album that confirmed Depeche Mode as globe-straddling megastars once and for all, and it is sometimes easy to forget how good the rest of the album is beyond the four singles. The ballads on the album – The Sweetest Perfection, Halo and this – are amongst the bands best of their kind, too, and it could perhaps be said that this is the only album without any filler whatsoever. Anyway, this track in particular is a bleak, pitch-dark ballad, little more than glittering synths (and no drums) accompanying the vocals, with the protagonist only surviving their wretched life by hiding in the shadows of night. And when you think of it like this, the mysterious, anonymous Ghost covering it makes a whole load of sense: but what is perhaps more jarring is how they have approached it, turning it in an epic, organ-drenched, seventies-rock behemoth. Like all Ghost material, it’s likely to sound even more amazing live.

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