Depeche Mode / The Singles 81-85

Singles 81>85

The Singles 81→85 is a singles compilation album released in October 1985 by Depeche Mode. The compilation was not originally released in North America, being replaced by its counterpart Catching Up with Depeche Mode. This was their first ever release with a picture of the band on the cover. In 1998, to coincide with the release of The Singles 86>98, the band remastered, repackaged, and re-released the compilation worldwide. Upon re-release there was a typographical change to The Singles 81>85 in order for consistency with the later release The Singles 86>98. Two bonus tracks (one of which had never appeared on an official CD to date) were included on the 1998 re-release.

The Analysis:

Dreaming Of Me—-Featuring the bright pop of then songwriter Vince Clarke, these beginning singles were a different Depeche than we are accustomed to now. This was wonderfully constructed synth-pop that was shiny and glossy. The vocal is wonderful…the harmonies not like anything you hear from the band in its current incarnation. This is damn nice!

New Life—-Perhaps even more polished than the debut single, this has long been a favorite of mine…even if for the harmonies and wonderfully song construction by short time member Clarke. This has familiar sounds all over it…the same sounds that can be found in many of Vince’s compositions even today. This is energetic, bright and damn contagious!

Just Can’t Get Enough—-This track, the breakout single for the band, still carries a remarkable charm and energy whenever i hear it. It allows vocals from the entire band…creating a nice gang atmosphere to the delivery. The synth lines are memorable…you know this song from the very opening note. This is wonderful…a nice trip down memory lane!

See You—-This track has a bit of a darker synth line at the onset..the low hum that runs through the song is fantastic. The song brightens up a bit, but it is decidedly a darker track. The vocals are fantastic…delivered in unison and producing a nice throwback sound to days gone by. This has a synth break that is remarkably similar to the Erasure track Stop!

The Meaning Of Love—-By this time, the band had established quite a cult following and a remarkably familiar sound…this is almost delivered at pogo speed…but still features a nice vocal harmonization that still allows the track to be irresistible and contagious. This still sounds remarkable to me…that almost dead pan style from Gahan is one thing that hasn’t changed through the years.

Leave In Silence—-Returning with a synth sound that is decidedly darker and less pop oriented, the band still has a bright sound that remains remarkable. The vocal is a bit more varied…finding gahan singing in a bit more of a higher tone that allows for a much more expressive delivery.

Get The Balance Right—-This has the 80’s written all over it…the synth line is so familiar and fits right in with the time of its release. The track again features some really nice vocal harmonies…giving the song a huge feel to it as well as a pretty bright and poppy feel. This still sounds magnificent….

Everything Counts—-For me, this was a game changing track…at this point, Clarke had left the band. Depeche started to experiment with a darker sound that included more machine oriented sounds and a more morose feel. The chorus, in typical mode fashion is a huge affair…but the song drives right back down into the darker sound once it is expended. This was monumental for me at the time and equally important in the bands evolution and popularity.

Love In Itself—-Continuing with the darker and more machine sound oriented pop this track has never really been a favorite of mine. I love the vocal, but the music, at times, sounds uninspired and recycled. The chorus is a huge affair..full of poppy melodies and a word choice that plants in your brain and never leaves…even after all of these years, I can recall almost every word.

People Are People—-Up until the late 80’s or early 90’s, this remained Depeche mode’s most recognizable tracks. This song was huge for the band, although it still did not break them in the US as they hoped it would. This track is everyone’s favorite, carries a positive message and features many of the dark sounds that would come to define the band. This is a wonderful moment in time…although really worn out by now.

Master And Servant—-This track completed the band’s movement in the dark-wave sound that they focused on for many years to come. The track is resplendent with slight industrial sounds, dark and somewhat graphic lyrics and a very memorable video. This was a darker and more goth Depeche…but delivered with that slight pop overtone they always had.

Blasphemous Rumours—-This is perhaps my favorite Depeche Mode of all time…the song is so heavily layered with dark machine oriented sounds and visions of working factories. the vocal is dark and dismal…the tale is grim and layered with enough doom to introduce the band to a whole new generation of listeners. To me, this was a high point in the bands career…and was largely ignored by much of the music community. When that chorus hits, it is such a contradiction from the body of the song…I still carry a little smirk whenever I hear it.

Somebody—-Delivering a tender and sweet little love song was the last thing that many people expected from this band. This is a nice layered song…from the heartbeat in the back drop that runs through the entire song…the slight sound of falling rain and the almost silent synth sounds that are abandoned for a masterful classical piano delivery. This is nice, not a favorite but a track that shows growth and a willingness to appeal to a broader audience.

Shake The Disease—-Returning to a more familiar sound, the band still employs some of the Industrial sounds of previous tracks, but for the most part delivers a nice poppy track that hearkens back to the earlier singles. The vocal is marvelous…Gahan delivers his best dead pan ever…coming alive with the rest of the band to deliver sweet harmonies and a truly accessible sound as it evolves. Nice!

It’s Called A Heart—-Diving back into a nice, successful mix of goth sounds and poppy synth lines, the band confused me with this single…never really sure where they were going next or what to expect from them. The one constant is the vocal form Gahan..this is trademark Dave…as he delivers a rotating vocal of deadpan tones and a lilting voice on the chorus. this is pretty great.

Photographic [Some Bizarre Version]—-This is a pretty fantastic that i have been unable to find anywhere except on this compilation. the music is delivered with a huge synth line, a dark wave feel and a chorus that would play well in any club even today. This reminds me of the great synth bands of the time…making me think of Ultravox right away. This is brilliant!!!

Just Can’t Get Enough [Schizo Mix]—-Schizo indeed….this remixed version of this classic song is a bit hit and miss for me. It is best when it keeps key elements of the original firmly intact…ineffective when it adds too much of a modern sound to the song. The vocal sounds even better than the original and that huge synth line runs through most of the track…nice, but I’ll take the original anytime.

****1/2 out of 5


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