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Depeche Mode

The Singles Box Vols. 1-6 (Reprise / Mute)

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., May 7, 2004

Depeche Mode

Singles Box Volumes 1-6 (Reprise/Mute) To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, could we possibly need this much Depeche Mode? The gargantuan Singles Box rounds up all 36 of the Eighties linchpins' Sire singles, replete with enough B-sides, live tracks, and remixes to clock in at slightly less time than a drive from Austin to Denver. Each sold-separately volume lists at $40, enough to buy The Singles 81>85 and The Singles 86>98 – both highly recommended – or two of the group's four DVDs. Luckily, each is practically custom-made for a different subspecies of DM devotees. Vol. 1 is for the Vince Clarke faithful; his chirpy, antiseptic pop has aged surprisingly well – "Just Can't Get Enough," sure, but also "New Life" and maiden release "Leave in Silence." Martin Gore's darker, kinkier POV takes over on Vol. 2, and "People Are People," "Master and Servant," and the underrated "Love in Itself" should satisfy casual fans who limit their Eighties intake to Mix 94.7's Friday-afternoon Retro Mix. Culled from the years surrounding '86's Black Celebration – DM's first great album – Vol. 3 is ideal for Elysium's Sunday-night Regression regulars, at once tender ("A Question of Lust") and deviant ("Stripped," "Little 15"). Vol. 4 captures the foursome's creative and commercial pinnacle, lining up U.S.-conquering singles "Strangelove," "Never Let Me Down Again," "Behind the Wheel," "Route 66," "Everything Counts (Live)," and their highest-charting hits (for good reason), Violator's "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence." Though "Walking in My Shoes" is one of Gore's finest hours, the more rock-oriented Vol. 5 falters a bit overall. Finally, Vol. 6 may be the best value of the lot. Their 1996-2001 output is, save "It's No Good," less than spectacular, but turns to gold thanks to A-list alchemists like Underworld, Richie Hawtin, Air, Kid606, Dan the Automator, and Carl Craig. With so many different facets on display – not least B-side synth symphonies like "Pimpf" – it's unlikely the Sussex-spawned band whose name is French for "fast fashion" will ever go completely out of style.

(Vol. 1) ***

(Vols. 2 & 6) ***.5

(Vols. 3 & 4) ****

(Vol. 5) **.5

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