Thursday, 14 August 2014


Over the years, Depeche Mode's various members have indulged in solo outings, some more successfully than others. When I say successfully, I don't mean commercially of course as these releases are usually of little interest to anyone outside the Depeche fan world and, even then, it's not as if every DM fan buys every single solo release. I thought I'd do a round up of these releases but not in my usual forensic depth (* post blog edit - it really didn't turn out as brief as planned) as, to be entirely candid with you, I don't own all of them as some of them weren't that good really. Also, there's going to be a separate Recoil blog on the basis that Alan isn't actually a member of Depeche Mode any more so doesn't qualify for this one. I'm panicking even at the thought of typing that last sentence as my last blog that mentioned Alan, which was only intended to be a "oh look 20 years ago was his last gig" fun kind of thing has inspired a thread that is currently 22 pages long on the Home site and features much debate, some half mad, about Alan. I really didn't mean to cause any trouble honestly! Anyway, on that cheery note, let's begin.

First up let's have a look at Martin. To relieve the pressures of being the band's main songwriter he has released two solo albums, both of which are pretty good and certainly worth checking out. His first release was the Counterfeit e.p. which came out on June 12 1989 on vinyl, cassette and cd (STUMM67)

There are six tracks in all - Compulsion (originally by Joe Crow), In A Manner Of Speaking (Tuxedomoon), Smile In The Crowd (The Durutti Column), Gone (Comsat Angels), Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth (Sparks) and Motherless Child (traditional). The e.p. is a real delight featuring some great electronics and some lovely vocals from Martin, especially on In A Manner Of Speaking and Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth. The latter was played a few times on the Music For The Masses Tour in Martin's solo spot too. This being a late 80's Depeche release, there are of course a couple of rare releases relative to this project that you can get your hands on. There's a seemingly rather rare 7" promo of In A Manner Of Speaking that was released to French and German radio stations. That'll usually set you back around £70 on ebay.

Then there's the rather lovely but still never seen by me Japanese cd edition of the e.p. which comes with a different booklet to the UK release and, most brilliantly of all, a Martin Gore doll. God knows who thought this up and indeed how or why they thought it up, but congratulations to them. Note that not all Japanese cd release come with the doll - it was only the first few. Anyway, here's what it looks like:

Martin's second solo release was the imaginatively titled Counterfeit 2 which came out between Exciter and Playing The Angel on April 28 2003. Again, it was all covers and was preceded by a single Stardust which was a cover of the David Essex erm...classic. Stardust came out on April 14 2003 on 12" (12MUTE296) with three tracks (Stardust (Atom Vocal remix), Stardust (Atom Vocal Instrumental) and I Cast A Lonesome Shadow (Steward Walker Instrumental Remix)), cd (CDMUTE296 - right )again with three tracks ( Stardust (Album version), I Cast A Lonesome Shadow (Steward Walker Vocal Mix) and Life Is Strange (Single Version)) the latter of which is the star here. As it was that era, there was also the DVD (DVDMUTE296 - top right) single which was saved from its' usual pointlessness by a video for the song Left Hand Luke And The Beggar Boys which is a Martin acoustic version filmed by BRAT or as he's known to people outwith the internet, Daniel Barassi. The other tracks are the Album and Atom Vocal versions of Stardust.

The full album the followed. The tracklisting is, with original artists in brackets: In My Time Of Dying (traditional), Stardust (David Essex), I Cast A Lonesome Shadow (Hank Williams), In My Other World (Julee Cruise), Loverman (Nick Cave), By This River (Brian Eno), Lost In The Stars (Kurt Weill), Oh My Love (John Lennon), Das Lied Vom Einsamen Madchen (Nico), Tiny Girls (Iggy Pop) and Candy Says (The Velvet Underground). All artist corrections welcome by the way. The album (STUMM214) came out on LP and CD in the UK.

Overall it's decent but I still prefer the more innocent sounding Counterfeit e.p. The sound is hugely redolent of the beeps and bleeps of Exciter in places but there are moments of beauty such as Lost In The Stars, Candy Says and In My Other World. The only moments it falls flat is when Martin either sings in German (guess which track) as it doesn't really work or when he tries to impersonate Nick Cave. 

Martin also undertook a mini tour in support of the release where the gigs featured a mix of Counterfeit tracks and several Depeche classics. Some of the songs appear on the dvd (DVDMUTE322)  release of the album's second single Loverman (released November 2003) where you'll find videos of In My Time Of Dying, Stardust, I Cast A Lonesome Shadow, Lost In The Stars and Loverman all filmed live in Milan on 30 April 2003. There's also an interview. A 12" and CD were also released (12MUTE322 left and CDMUTE322 right) featuring a number of fairly useless remixes. The 12" has the Bola Remix and Bola Instrumental of Loverman and the Turner remix and Lawrence remix of Das Lied Vom Einsamen Madchen. The cd single drops the Bola Instrumental of Loverman and replaces it with the Radio Edit.

Finally, there was the brilliant VCMG project that Martin put out with Vince Clarke (MARTIN AND VINCE RECORDED TOGETHER - ARRGGHH!) but that's getting a future blog all of its own.

I'm not going to look at the various remixes Martin has done nor the various appearances he has made on other projects so that concludes the Gore section.

Next up, it's Dave's turn. Ah Dave. Frustrated frontman turns author of own songs is rarely an appealing prospect and, sadly, bar the odd gem, Dave's solo work is really not something I'm keen on. His first release was the single Dirty Sticky Floors which came out on 26 May 2003 and reached a respectable number 18 in the UK. It's a good song and certainly a promising start to Dave's solo work. The single was released on 5 formats in all. CDMUTE294 (right) contained the Radio Mix of the lead track and 2 new tracks (nice touch) Stand Up and Maybe. LCDMUTE294 contained the Junkie XL Vocal Remix Edit, Lexicon Avenue Vocal Mix Edit and The Passengerz Dirty Club Mix Edit of Dirty Sticky Floors, 12MUTE294 the Junkie XL Vocal Mix and Junkie XL Dub and L12MUTE294 the Lexicon Avenue Vocal Mix and the Silencer remix. I can't recall any of them particularly. It was 2003 so there had to be a DVDMUTE294 too - that had the video for the singe, the Junkie XL Dub edit and an acoustic take on Black & Blue Again.
The much anticipated solo album Paper Monsters (STUMM216, CDSTUMM216) soon followed the single, coming out on 2 June and getting to number 36 in the UK. Interestingly, and perhaps to Dave's satisfaction, the album easily out performed Counterfeit in the UK. Naturally it also went top 10 in Germany. The album was written with Knox Chandler and the lyrics (all Dave's as far as I know) were in places very frank and confessional, reminding you in places of some of the interviews Dave gave around the release of Ultra. Obviously the horrific time Dave had in the 90's still weighed heavily on him and a lot of that spilled out here - that is certainly not a criticism by the way, merely an observation. Fair play to Dave for bearing his soul. The issue I have with Paper Monsters is that it's just not that exciting musically. It works in places but overall it is a bit bland and, well, a bit muso.

There are ten tracks on the album: Dirty Sticky Floors, Hold On, A Little Piece, Bottle Living, Black & Blue Again, Stay, I Need You, Bitter Apple, Hidden Houses, Goodbye. For me, only Dirty Sticky Floors, Bottle Living and Bitter Apple stand out. There was also an LCDSTUMM216 which came with a bonus DVD featuring A Short Film, the Dirty Sticky Floors video, b-roll footage from the video, acoustic performances of Hold On and A Little Piece, b-roll footage from those performances (nope me neither) and a photo gallery.
Like Martin, Dave also hit the road, playing around 42 shows from June to November. Some shows, especially in Europe, attracted pretty big crowds. Dave's band played a mix of his songs and some Depeche songs mainly Policy of Truth, Enjoy The Silence, Just Can't Get Enough, I Feel You, A Question Of Time, Personal Jesus, Never Let Me Down Again and Walking In My Shoes. It's fair to say that his band murdered them all in cold blood. Man alive, there are some shocking takes on Depeche classics there. I know that, at least according to one reader of this blog, I'm not allowed to criticise Depeche or any Depeche related product, but bloody hell the Dave Band versions of the DM's tracks are woeful. If you don't believe me, and why should you really it's only my view, check out the tour's live DVD Live Monsters (DVDSTUMM216 - right) for the full grizzly proof.
There were two more singles from the album too - I Need You (right) 
 and a double A of Bottle Living and Hold On (left). Respectively they reached numbers 27 and 36 in the UK which is damn impressive and pretty much as well as Depeche have done since then for second, third or fourth singles from their albums. I Need You was issued on 2 x cd's (CDMUTE301, LCDMUTE301) and 2 twelve inches (12MUTE301 and L12MUTE301), all stuffed with remixes. Bottle Living/Hold On was just released on cd - CDMUTE301 and LCDMUTE301.

Dave's next solo venture was post Playing The Angel when the frankly brilliant Kingdom was released. This is THE Dave solo song for me. It's Depeche like in the main but it's also full of dirty electronics and just general greatness. This would have been brilliant on Playing The Angel or any subsequent DM album. Backed by Tomorrow, the single only reached number 44 in the UK which was harsh. It was available on  2 cd's CDMUTE393 with the two tracks mentioned above and LCDMUTE393 which as well as Kingdom featured the Digitalism remix, Booka Shade Club Mix, K10K Extended Mix and the video. The remixes are all fine. Finally there was also a 7" picture disc with the same tracks as the first cd. Kingdom is a great song, it really is
The album Hourglass, written by Dave, Andrew Phillpott and Christian Eigner, followed on 22 October 2007. It is an improvement on Paper Monsters for me, as it leans far more towards electronics and therefore Depeche Mode. The album starts well, but tails off and doesn't really last the pace sadly. It was available on vinyl (STUMM288 with bonus cd of the album), CD (CDSTUMM288), LCDSTUMM288 (an embossed sleeve edition) and XLCDSTUMM288 which comes with a bonus DVD. The album's tracklist is: Saw Something ( a brilliant, beautiful tune that goes all wrong when a dreadful guitar solo by John Frusciante pops up), Kingdom, Deeper and Deeper, 21 Days, Miracles, Use You, Insoluble, Endless, A Little Lie and Down. The bonus DVD adds Hourglass - A Short Film, the Kingdom video, Hourglass - The Studio Sessions which is live in studio versions of Saw Something, Miracles, Kingdom and A Little Lie and finally Endless from Hourglass: The Studio Sessions which could presumably have been tagged onto the previous four. A more satisfying album than Paper Monsters all in, but not one I've listened to much at all.

There was one final single to come and that was the album's other standout track Saw Something which was released on January 14 2008 as a double a-side with Deeper & Deeper. Both tracks were available on a 7" picture disc (MUTE398) and a 12" (12MUTE398) and cd single (CDMUTE398) which both feature remixes of those two tracks and Love Will Leave.
Dave's most recent solo venture is the best. After supporting Depeche on the Tour of The Universe, Soulsavers teamed up with Dave to release The Light The Dead See on 21 May 2012. The project is a collaboration between the band and Dave with Dave's lyrics given a moody, gothic and atmospheric backing by Soulsavers. One of the highlights of the album is Dave's voice to be honest. In his latter years he's started to develop a rather lovely croon and this album shows it off to the full. You get the feeling that Dave loved every minute of the project and it clearly shows throughout what is a really enjoyable album. It was released on V2 and not Mute so I'm not going to get all fussy with catalogue numbers for once. There are 12 tracks in all: La Ribera, In The Morning, The Longest Day, Presence Of God, Just Try, Gone Too Far, Point Sur Pt1, Take Me Back Home, Bitterman, I Can't Stay, Take and Tonight. The album was released on vinyl with bonus cd and cd. Longest Day and Take Me Back Home were available as digital singles and there was also an ultra rare Record Store Day 2012 7" for Longest Day limited to 300 copies. Do check out this album.
Who next then? Ah yes, Fletch. Well Andy hasn't released any solo work as such, mainly because an album of hand clapping, waving and occasional bass synth would have people like Throbbing Gristle running for the hills proclaiming it too avant garde, Andy has instead toyed with a record label (Toast Hawaii featuring client) and undergone a global DJ tour which featured rare Depeche mixes amongst other things and went to places Depeche don't normally go. He's a good man Andy. It really pisses me off when people question his role (my handclap thing up there was tongue in cheek) as he proves time and time again that he genuinely cares about us fans as the many and varied venues on his DJ tour prove. No bad word should ever be said about Fletch. To do so is to miss the point of Depeche Mode entirely.
So that is my brief run down of the Depeche solo work. For me, Martin's work is my favourite though there are some gems in Dave's work too though I guess they are all patchy in places. Charms in limited supply indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Paper Monsters: Have to disagree on your evaluation of Dave's live versions of DM songs. I found them to be good and enjoyable. They were different and that was the idea in the first place - to make them part of a show that included songs from Paper Monsters. I loved that album very much.
    Hourglass: The studio sessions included a lovely unplugged piano only version of Endless which is stunning.
    The Light the Dead See: Wonderful.