Depeche Mode, the Cure, and the Jesus & Mary Chain

Record review

Reissues & Box Sets

Depeche Mode

Speak & Spell (Rhino/Sire/Mute/Reprise)

Depeche Mode

Music for the Masses (Rhino/Sire/Mute/Reprise)

Depeche Mode

Violator (Rhino/Sire/Mute/Reprise)

The Cure

The Top (Rhino/Fiction/Elektra)

The Cure

The Head on the Door (Rhino/Fiction/Elektra)

The Cure

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (Rhino/Fiction/Elektra)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Psychocandy (Rhino/Blanco y Negro)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Darklands (Rhino/Blanco y Negro)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Automatic (Rhino/Blanco y Negro)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Honey's Dead (Rhino/Blanco y Negro)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Stoned & Dethroned (Rhino/Blanco y Negro)

British in provenance, global in impact, Depeche Mode, the Cure, and the Jesus & Mary Chain carried rock into remote netherworlds, dark places where it could mingle freely with dance, art, and noise, and lit the fuse for a slow-burning revolution that eventually saw alternative cultures impact the mainstream like never before. Twenty years later, as this avalanche of Rhino reissues hits stores, Depeche Mode and the Cure continue to sell out arenas worldwide, and college radio is still crowded with bands that bear the Mary Chain's unmistakable stamp. The three very different groups were all fascinated with the twin axes of love and obsession and could each weave simple musical strands into complex tapestries. What made them a sort of prealternative trinity, however, was their talent for delving beneath the superficial flash so common to the era. They explored the decadent moral vacuum at its core, while still writing songs that became instant hits on MTV, radio, and the dance floor.

Naturally, even bands of this caliber were bound to have false starts and misfires along the way, like Depeche Mode's 1981 debut Speak & Spell. The quartet emerged from the prefab industrial town of Basildon with a synth-driven sound that couldn't quite throw off the reins of disco and later served principal songwriter Vince Clarke much better in his later groups Yaz and Erasure. Speak & Spell is too callow to carry much weight today, but simplistic, energetic singles "New Life," "Dreaming of Me," and "Just Can't Get Enough" have enjoyed deservedly long shelf lives. By 1987's Music for the Masses, which incorporated gritty guitars alongside DM's trademark synths and made them as huge as the title implies, the acumen of Clarke's successor Martin L. Gore was in full bloom. Gore's taste for sin and quest for redemption are as evident on chamber pieces like "Sacred" and "To Have and to Hold" as on the epic "Never Let Me Down Again," "Behind the Wheel," and "Strangelove." The pattern continues on 1990's career peak Violator, the picture of austere despair, from the whispery "Waiting for the Night" through rough-hewn "Personal Jesus" and immortal "Enjoy the Silence." Rhino's deluxe editions pair the original albums with DVDs containing 5.1 and stereo mixes, plus bonus B-sides (also available on last year's massive The Singles box) and three short films.

Again supplementing the remastered original albums with a full disc of demos, alternate takes, and live bootlegs, Rhino picks up the Cure's trail with 1984's The Top, widely considered one of the few duds in the Crawley crew's catalogue. While certainly disjointed and unfocused at times, it also showcases Robert Smith's willingness to experiment with other styles of music – Middle Eastern on "Wailing Wall," hornpipes on "Dressing Up" – and the tighter, leaner demo disc suggests the main problem was simply overproduction. Not so on 1985's bold, clean, confident The Head on the Door. "In Between Days" remains Eighties pop perfection, with the sweeping "A Night Like This" and playful "Close to Me" close behind, and the labyrinthine twists and turns of "Kyoto Song" and "Sinking" demonstrating that the gloom merchants of Pornography were again in full command. That goes double, literally, for 1987's sprawling Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Best known for the band's finest three minutes, "Just Like Heaven," it veers from the elegant shimmer of "Catch" to the sly swing of "Hot Hot Hot!!!" to the dreamlike "A Thousand Hours" with hardly a break in continuity.

Although the lone additions to the Mary Chain reissues are extensive essays by Kieron Tyler and flipside DVD videos of each album's singles, Glasgow-born brothers Jim and William Reid's first five LPs are forever worth revisiting. 1985's landmark debut Psychocandy marries aching pop melodies to reams of feedback that sound like a table saw working on a sheet of corrugated tin; 1987's Darklands yanks the feedback and leaves the ghostly, Velvet Underground-inspired songs to stand alone, which they do. 1989's Automatic and 1992's Honey's Dead explode from the speakers with drum-machine drive and pop sleaze, anticipating and amplifying the dance-driven rock of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses. 1994's narcotic Stoned and Dethroned downshifts into an acoustic-based, album-length meditation on death, marking the end of these three bands' extraordinarily fertile decade. The generation they yielded to is, perhaps prematurely, just now coming under the nostalgic spotlight, but nostalgia is as fleeting as the moment it memorializes. As reissued here, the collected works of Depeche Mode, the Cure, and the Jesus & Mary Chain will likely last a good deal longer.

(Speak & Spell) **.5

(Music for the Masses; Violator) ****

(The Top) **.5

(The Head on the Door) ****

(Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) ***.5

(Psychocandy; Automatic; Honey's Dead) ****

(Darklands) ***

(Stoned & Dethroned) ***.5

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