Depeche Mode Press File

Appendix A

Photo of the group by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission


 'Q: Are We Not Men? We Are Stevo', Sounds, 31st January, 1981
Review of the 'Some Bizarre' compilation LP

 'The Hip Drone Is Connected To The Thigh Drone', New Musical Express, 2nd May, 1981
Review of Mute's Records 'Label Night' at the London Lyceum

 Review of 'Speak And Spell', Rolling Stone # 369


Review of the 'Some Bizarre Album' featuring one track ("Photographic") by Depeche Mode. 


"FUTURISM: This is your life. The vinyl proof: has Futurism got a future? Will the masses take to the electronic beat? Has Stevo got a winner on his hands? Ahh, Stevo, now there’s a name to conjure with…

In the dim and distant early months of 1980, a lone figure entered the Sounds scenario. Self-styled electro-entrepreneur Stevo, complete with his half a lank fringe, offered up a chart the like of which had never before been witnessed. Full of bands who didn’t fit the alternative label, weren’t smart enough to be on Rough Trade, who mostly favoured the use of synthesised music.

After much furrowing of brows in the editorial office, a voice came from the blue, proclaiming, "Let’s call it a Futurist Chart!" And so, a new cult was born. At first the embryonic electro scene was taken with a pinch of salt, but, week by week it gained in credibility and other so-called music papers took to discussing it as if it were their own. Young Stevo decided the thing to do was to bring these bands together on one album, a task which took him six months to complete, with the aid of Dead Good Records and finally a distribution deal with Phonogram, who obviously consider it’s futurism for keeps.

Facetiously dubbed "Modernism For Muthas" by the staff wit, it’s actually better thought out than the legendary ‘Metal’ and more important than the ‘Hicks From The Sticks’ job because it sums up the state-of-the-art. It’s also the first time a bunch of brand new, like-minded bands have found themselves on record together.

What we find here is electronic dance music/electronic experimental music as opposed to the more disco-oriented, sophisticated Visages and Ultravoxes. First: a glimpse at the real 20 carat golden goodies…

Manchester’s own Illustration proffer an auspicious opener with ‘Tidal Flow’, a relentless, sad rhythm, concentrating on languid, echoing bass lines and distant, dreamy synths topped with a plaintive vocal. Magazine with a splash of U2. It’s haunting/daunting.

Depeche Mode go quite the opposite way with ‘Photographic’ and are the only featured band to really make their synths go with beauty, bouncy energy and harmony. Despite their remonstrations (see fab feature) this definitely is like OMITD [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark] with its "Bright light/Dark room" chorus a la "Red frame/White light". A good old singalong, though, as is B-Movie’s ‘Moles’, which is much more rock’n’roll than the rest – a living, breathing drummer rollocks along with a frantic virtuoso performance on the keyboards by Rick Holliday. Love the ‘Moles in holes/Underground/They can’t be found" tongue-in-cheek hookerama.

Soft Cell grow to be quite charming. ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’ was recorded a while ago on just two tracks and thus is initially rather piercing but the Phil Oakey style of crooning vocals from Marc Almond (also credited for energetics!) soar away close to the edge singing a stunningly visual fetishistic lyric which’d look great on video: "The girl with the patent leather face/Is a psychopathic mental case/A target for the freaks and creeps/A reject from the human race/The girl with the patent leather face/Hangs around the mutant bars/She tampers with machinery/So other beauties crash their cars." Pervy!

Of the not-so-quite-so-startling tracks, Neu Electrikk come up funky with ‘Lust Of Berlin’, heavy on the rhythm section and sketchy, jazzy guitar but lose out a little due to the obviously Ziggy-inspired vocal from Dee Sebastian. Naked Lunch needn’t have apologised so profusely for ‘La Femme’, even if it is very ‘Being Boiled’ in places. An uptempo, fun song, overlong but with a certain jiggy charm.

Blancmange take on Eno and/or Vinni Reilly at their own game in ‘Sad Day’ and end up with an instrumental that would make an ideal TV theme or cinema interlude musak. A melancholy little guitar track winds its way over a simple but effective synth/drum tape backing. Hank Marvin after a bereavement.

Jell features the legendary Eric Random thumping his bass and drums on ‘I Dare Say It Will Hurt A Little’ and Lynn Seed on distant, virginal choirgirl vocals. Bit of a rambling, acid-trip job on guitars and clarinet/melodica however. The Fast Set appear briefly doing the old T-Rex number ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ for the 80s and The Loved One are amusingly quasi-melodramatic on ‘Observations’, the seemingly po-faced ‘voice’ Dryden Hawkins also being pretentiously credited with "Audio induction units/Sonics /Period indication." You’d have a pretty good time dancing to it in leg irons.

And so to the ‘whimsical confection’ dept. The The might appear moody and gloomy on first hearing the creeping bass line but the word plays are the highlight: "All this and more/All this and the Moors Murders… I scream in the sun/Ice cream in the Sunday Papers’. I give Blah Blah Blah the honour of taking up the rear. Their basic philosophy of blahism (hyperbolic and frothy talk or writing) can be observed in action during the nonsensical, quirky, Residents-oriented ‘Central Park’, a narrative relating the tale of a man walking in said park who sees a gentleman riding a horse with an aura about him. No one else sees this. Bizarre bass and tootling synth rattle on till Blah Ian decides: "Perhaps I had a migraine or something." Sheer silliness.

The key to it all, perhaps, is that nobody takes themselves too seriously. As Tony from Naked Lunch says: "There are times when I think people have forgotten how to smile, laugh and just have a good time without violence." I doubt if any of these bands would want anything more than to entertain, even if some of them indicate pretentions towards more subliminal ‘enjoyment’. No-one gets far without a sense of humour.

Very soon you too could follow the Some Bizzarers’ example: the £40 synthesiser is on its way! Meanwhile, be content with this album, which looks to have got the balance between fun, dance and thoughtfulness. One small step for Stevo, a giant foot forward for Futurism (!)." ****

Betty Page
Sounds, 31st January, 1981

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

This advert for the 'Some Bizarre Album' originally appeared in the
February 19, 1981 issue of Smash Hits

A review of  the Mute Records live 'label night' (featuring Depeche Mode) at the London Lyceum.


"This ole house, the London Lyceum, becomes a gilded palace of synths tonight as it plays host to Daniel Miller’s Mute Records, a label that’s been instrumental in the development of electronic music ever since its first release, The Normal’s "TVOD"/"Warm Leatherette". But there’s much more to Mute than that, as this evening’s assortment of attractions serves to show. Beginning with…

Furious Pig! Now it isn’t easy discussing people with a name like Furious Pig – such troublesome undertones of 1970 there – and that difficulty is made worse by their music. Perhaps best known as contributors of the most horrible one minute 28 seconds of the NME C81 [24-track cassette released in January 1981 by Rough Trade and available through New Musical Express - BB], the Furiouses are four in number and peculiar by nature. The set began on time, with the predictable result that I missed most of it, but what I did see was really quite startling.

The Pigs are a sort of shabby barbershop quartet who shout and bang things and walk around in a line and that’s about it. The one complete piece that I heard (their best number, said a passing Chris Bohn) was a succession of fearsome amplified growls, aggressively punctuated by hitting sounds – kind of simultaneously cute and ferocious. I’ll have to hear more.

Lulls between acts – and these Lyceum marathons can be daunting – are eased by Mutant humorous film shows: the sort of thing that should be the rule instead of the exception at rock gigs, surely.

Palais Schaumberg, the German group who followed, played music somewhere outside of my tastes, but the spirited good humour of their approach was very likable. It’s not every band that kick off with a song called "The Meaning Of Life" and get away with it. They’re electronic and, I suppose, experimental, but play with an advanced sense of fun; they’re not for me but could be for a great many others.

Stealers of the show were probably Depeche Mode, the group from Basildon. D Mode are three synths and a singist, visually in the Spandau Ballet mould but musically a very interesting proposition in their own right. Accompanied by some severe outbreaks of dancing, they pumped out a set of rhythmic attractive pop, highlight of which was the lovely, flowing hit-that-should-have-been, "Dreaming Of Me" – its title alone could make it the New Romantics’ anthem. "Boys", which followed, was harder but almost as good. They encored a fine performance with a new version of "Price Of Love", Bryan Ferry’s moving tribute to the man who makes his trousers.

Fad Gadget – he or they, whichever you prefer – are the last to take the stage. Five willowy young fellows, dressed as morris dancing harlequins, Dr Feelgood they ain’t. The rather effete spectacle that they present, however, is not borne out by their music, which is often raw, especially the vocals of Mr Gadget. In fact, Fad himself, once he lets go, is strangely reminiscent of Tenpole Tudor: a lanky, panicking streak, sweat-shined rib cage heaving under an open shirt.

The group line up with two drummers, one of them synthesised, plus guitar and keyboards: musically they represent electronic music’s hooligan element. It’s an energetic, entertaining set, well-stocked with decent material like the singles "Fireside Favourites" and "Ricky’s Hand". Midway, though, the show’s appeal suffers a slight tailing off, and it’s as if the group play faster, with increasing desperation, to less and less effect – a symptom, maybe, of a shortage of ideas. Or maybe it was getting late: the Mute night was fun while it lasted, but it lasted an awful long time."

Paul Du Noyer
New Musical Express, 2nd May, 1981

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


This item from Rolling Stone includes a brief review of Depeche Mode's debut LP 'Speak And Spell' alongside reviews of albums by The Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and Soft Cell. Largely dismissive, the review does holds some interest for its discussion of the band and the album in the wider context of the Electro-Pop wave of '81.

"To English popmusic fans, there is nothing like a good six-month fad. The punk explosion, the warmed-over mods, the ska craze and the psychedelic revival–don't look now, but you just missed the New Romantics–have come and gone (and in some cases, come again) with such confounding rapidity that it is hard to take most of them any more seriously than Hula Hoops or edible underwear.

The country's latest rage is synthesizer music. Every hip, young Tom, Dick and Johnny B. Goode has traded in his guitar for a synthesizer and rhythm box, buying into future cool by applying the latest keyboard and computer appliances to the brisk melodic cheeriness of commercial pop and the bubbly beat of off-white funk. But far from bowing down to the great god of automation or passing off their microchip bubblegum musings on sex and energy as the stuff of a brave new world, these synthesizer bands have bestowed an almost mock-human quality upon their hardware. The beeping, farting and whooshing of the keyboards, combined with the psycho-Sinatra cabaret croon of the singers (Soft Cell's Marc Almond and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Andy McCluskey, take a bow), creates a man-machine tension channeled into the vigorous dance beat of many of these songs. And by dancing, that does not mean the March of the Androids but no-holds-barred Soul Train swing.

The chart success of these digital dandies and their synthesizer pop – all four of the above LPs made the U.K. Top Five and are faring surprisingly well here – is somewhat out of proportion to their artistic worth. These are, after all, only pop songs in transistor drag. But if singing the same old song with newfangled noise is no great leap, selling the public on a package of postpunk do-it-yourself ingenuity, easy-to-play technology and Top Forty classicism certainly is.

The Human League is a perfect case in point. In the four years since the group's first single, a home-recorded slice of angry young electronic New Wave called "Being Boiled," the original quartet split in half and evolved into a six-piece, circa-2001 Abba. Singer Phil Oakey's lusty saloon styling is now lightly sugared with the twee harmonies of Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley. Such songs as the Euro-fizzy "Open Your Heart" and the bright motorfunk exercise "Love Action" (both on Dare) are delightful, swinging singles free of sci-fi pretensions and uncluttered by art-school cleverness. Producer Martin Rushent's warm widescreen production also takes the edge off the severe chill that typified the League's earlier import albums.

Yet, more important, the League itself now strikes an appealing balance between modern technique and tuneful charm, epitomized by the hit single "Don't You Want Me." Alternating between a gray doomsday riff and a smart samba strut, the song is a tasty white-soul layer cake of competing melody and harmony lines whose orchestral possibilities are pared down to a sleek, glassy arrangement by the metallic breeze and regimented beat of the synthesizers. With all the knobs and buttons at their disposal, the Human League still goes for the hook. And with eight other songs as artfully grabby as "Don't You Want Me," Dare keeps reelin' 'em in.

The problem with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark is that they want to have their art and eat it, too. The awkward mix of dreamy romanticism and spatial, Pink Floyd-ian abstractions on Architecture and Morality, OMD's second American album, suggests that Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys are acutely embarrassed by their ability to pen seductive moonlight sonatas like "Souvenir" and the eerie Parisian waltz "Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)." Why else gussy up the LP with ponderous music of the spheres, as in the title track's construction-site rattle and the overlong "Sealand," a nuclear beach concerto of drawn-out synthesizer drones? They even sabotage the album's one decent party track, "Georgia," with carnival organ and holy choir sound effects. Too much sincerity and not enough spunk on Architecture and Morality make for attractive but dull fare.

The Soft Cell twosome of Marc Almond and David Ball walks on a much wilder side, bringing the brainy bop of OMD down to a lurid red-light-district level on their debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. Their hit single, "Tainted Love" (included here), neatly captured Soft Cell's fetish for R&B camp; the twelve-inch single even segued into a heavy-breathing version of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go."

Not surprisingly, then, the best tracks on Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret–"Frustration," "Sex Dwarf," "Secret Life" – bump and grind with vibrant, tawdry soul. Ball, employing a limited arsenal of synthesized keyboard effects, tarts up the meaty funk beat with multiple rhythm figures and steamy extended chords. Together, these complement singer-lyricist Almond's passion for sexual deviation ("Sex Dwarf," "Entertain Me") and rather vampiric fear of open day-light ("Memories of the night before/Out in clubland having fun/And now I'm hiding from the sun," from "Bedsitter").

Compared to Soft Cell's smutty pop, Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell is strictly PG-rated fluff. A group of fresh-faced, suburban lads from Britain, they have neither the ambition of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark nor the overt commercial allure of the Human League. They simply drift aimlessly between the two, occasionally hitting a disco bull's-eye with chirpy dance tracks like "Dreaming of Me" and "Just Can't Get Enough." Too often the synthesizers lock into dead-end grooves, and the group's boyish caroling is anonymous at best.

There's plenty more where all this synthesized Dream Whip came from: e.g., Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Heaven 17, the Far East fantasies of the group Japan. They're not all completely synth, but they certainly sing the body electric. Still, the temptation is to dismiss English synth-pop as the chart's flavor of the month. For all their undeniable pop attractions and the genuine innovative potential of electro-dominated rock, these bands so far have only bent the rules, not broken them. If this batch of records is any indication, the revolution will not be synthesized."

David Fricke
Rolling Stone 369

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

Photo of the group by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission