With globe trotting stadium electro-poppers Depeche Mode in standby mode, its various members have been given time off to fill their time with whatever it is that multi-millionaire artists do on their days off. Martin L Gore, obviously tiring of lie ins, Neighbours and endless Diagnosis Murder repeats, decided to pop back into the studio and have a crack at being a solo artist again.
Surprisingly, for someone who has made a career from being a songwriter, this is his second album of cover songs. From Kurt Weill to Iggy Pop, Gore casts his net far and wide and in general comes up with a fair set of songs. Choosing songs that he has a particular love for or affinity to, or as he puts it “Without some of the artists I’ve covered here, I wouldn’t be writing the way I do.” he never lets his reverence get in the way of reworking a song.
Musically the glitches and bleeps of recent Depeche Mode material remains the order of the day, with a healthy dose of lo-fi graininess that will appeal to the more conservative element of the electronica community, who tend to get scared and hide at the thought of vocals, let alone tunes. Several of the tracks though could easily be listened to without the vocals, and wouldn’t seem far out of place on labels like Morr or Toytronic, current darlings of the underground.
But when the vocals combine with the music, the end result can be a real treat. Recent single Stardust kicks things off in fine style and the dip onto alt-country-electonica on I Cast a Lonesome Shadow keeps the quality level high. It’s not all good though and for a dangerous period in the midsection the album starts to flag, Nick Cave‘s Loverman proves without a doubt that the only person who can pull off his fire-and-brimstone preacher man schtick is Nick Cave – and the Kurt Weill piece Lost in the Stars is as awful a piece of sub-Weimar cabaret as you’d want to hear.
Recovering in fine style though, Martin ends the album on a flurry, first up the Iggy Pop classic Tiny Girls and as a closer a beautifully wasted version of Lou Reed’s Candy Says that ends the album on a devastatingly poignant note. All in all it’s a good album that fans of the Mode will lap up, the choice of songs to cover is never obvious and in general they survive their translation into glitchy-broken up electronica well, a testament to themselves and their translator. Job well done then and just in time to catch Countdown, it’s a hard life these superstars lead…