Saturday, August 21, 2010

Depeche Mode Single Cover Gallery, Part One

I wanted to do Depeche Mode, prime soundtrackers of teen angst for several generations now, but I realised soon what a big project it really is. The album covers actually interested me less than the singles, but Depeche Mode has put out more singles than some bands have individual songs. So I'm just looking at the singles for now, and furthermore breaking that into two parts. This, part one, goes as far as Violator, and as far as I'm concerned the extent of Depeche Mode as an interesting band. But forgive me my prejudices, and let's get started...

"Dreaming of Me" was Depeche Mode's only single not released in multiple formats. So throughout, there are variant covers, and I've just chosen the one that catches my eye most. Though with time, these variant covers would actually be clever 'variations on a theme', in the early days the 7" cover and the 12" cover frequently had nothing whatsoever to do with each other - and "New Life" and "See You" are perfect examples of that. "Dreaming of Me" is charmingly artless, like a high schooler's art project, and all told the Speak and Spell singles are for the most part pretty but personality-less. Since I chose the prettier "See You" cover, "The Meaning of Love" is the only example we have of the god-awful "A Broken Frame" cover era.

"Leave in Silence" is actually from A Broken Frame too, but its clean graphical cover points the way forward. For their third album, Depeche Mode seized on pseudo-Marxist labour-glorification as a theme, and it served them well, with a handful of covers straight out from behind the Iron Curtain. The deliberately ugly "People are People" is a huge misstep, but clearly we'll soon see they'll have learnt their lesson in no time.

Clean graphics and evocative design with yet another 'wordmark' logo for the two remaining Some Great Reward singles, two similar figure-sketch designs for between-album singles and, in "Stripped" a hesitant way forward. "Stripped" was the first single from Black Celebration and thus inaugurates the 'this is a band that actually matters' era of their history. Graphically, we're seeing Wingding-style icons and a lot of black, but not all three singles from this album are made equal.

Black Celebration finishes with a voguish pseudo-vintage Hollywood picture and with a pretty ugly design featuring a girl looking at a broken mirror. From then on, though, Depeche Mode seems to have decided that all covers need to have certain things in common. In the case of Music for the Masses and its four singles, that would be loudspeakers. Orange if possible. So "Strangelove" is all speaker, where "Never let Me Down Again" sticks a speaker icon on its Russian-map design.

"Little 15" keeps the speaker but chucks the orange for a much prettier dark green. The single single from 101 was a live version of "Everything Counts", with a highly bizarre randomly-cropped cover featuring t-shirts and drink glasses, and a band called Dep M. The four Violator covers are more disparate than I remember them. Without various band members fondling a naked woman in turn, "Personal Jesus" is just a scribble. The white rose of "Enjoy the Silence" is, like Dave Gahan's king outfit and the song's chorus, atypically iconic. "Policy of Truth" features different shushing naked women in lurid colours across the formats. And "World in Your Eyes" features different band members making shadow puppets in front of a night-sky cityscape. But at least you got two b-sides.

Coming up next: the less interesting years. Popular in Estonia!


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