Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Depeche Mode Single Cover Gallery, Part Two

And now we're onto Part Two, the "I didn't know they had a song with that name" years. They haven't lost anything in popularity; if anything, they're selling more than they ever did. But it must just be me and my age... this half of the story is just an endless succession of singles that seem more or less the same to me. Pity, too.

There's a 'childish handwriting' theme to the Songs of Faith and Devotion era, one that gives us single covers by and large nicer than the album cover. "I Feel You" and its hand-painted chess pieces is a sad exception, but the naked chicken and the praying hands are nice ("Condemnation" also has another format that bears no relation to this, being one of David Gahan on stage - recall that I'm merely choosing one representative cover for these singles that might have as many as six or seven covers in different formats). By "In Your Room" it's been replaced with a lightbulb and one of those preset fonts that come with your computer. By "Barrel of a Gun" and the album it comes from, they've lost Alan Wilder and some taste too, with perhaps the most deliberately ugly cover they've ever released (the single's pretty ugly too).

There's a new 'wordmark', kind of the band's name on a Dymo label, for the Ultra album and three of its singles. They're underachievers, really: an upside-down fleur-de-lys, a crude outline of buildings, a nail-polished hand (here in photoreverse). Clean, I guess, but not very evocative. Treading water, you could say. The next two singles show how closely Depeche Mode had learnt to syncronise album art and single art. "Only When I Lose Myself" was the 'new track' on a singles collection with the dot-matrix font and the huge LED signs. But here they're in a hotel room. And "Dream On" gets pretty much the same cover as parent album Exciter, just in a different colour.

All of the Exciter covers have the same wordmark, but there's not much, er, exciting happening. A pretty picture of people and water, tinted and washed out to near-unrecognisability, some leaves, a faux-naïve painting of the moon. Bland and empty. The remixed cash-in of "Enjoy the Silence" has about 15 different covers which are all variations of this one: distorted images of old computer-fonts spelling 'mode'. Ugly in a different way to "Barrel of a Gun", but ugly nonetheless. The last one in this set is the forst one from Playing the Angel, so again we see the new Depeche Mode tradition of having the first single's cover look an awful lot like the album's cover. In this case, same colours, same magic-marker wordmark, and same 'mascot'. This floppy little guy is the 'symbol' of this album era. An angel? I guess.

Three more singles from Playing the Angel, and a fair amount of cheese. They're starting to look like fan-designed Photoshop pieces, particularly "Suffer Well", which has a disco ball and Courier New. The fourth double-a-side single is pretty much the album cover again, just in grey. Am I being too harsh, by the way? Well, we get another greatest-hits album with a desperately ugly thrown-together cover, and one associated single, "Martyr", with essentially the same cover in black. "Wrong" is the first single from Sounds of the Universe, and shares its coloured stickes in a circle, a design aesthetic that I can't even call Photoshop quality - if anything, it's MS Paint quality. These coloured sticks, however, are black and white. Think about that for a while.

My God, are we still talking about Depeche Mode? All signs indicate that they will never go away, and that as long as there are teenagers, they'll be there with electronic songs featuring David Gahan bellowing Martin Gore's adolescent-angst lyrics. But they won't have very nice single covers. "Peace" is "Wrong" with a peace sign, and the most recent single puts the coloured sticks next to the circle as opposed to inside it. Does any of this mean anything? Of course not. What would be the fun in that?



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