One of my photos

Speak and Spell

April 29th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Music · 4 Comments · Music

I try not to buy CDs of records I already own on vinyl, especially at full price, but I just had to make an exception for Depeche Mode’s first album, Speak & Spell for two reasons. One is the sheer amount of nostalgic affection I have for it, and the other is that I really wanted to hear how well it had been remastered.

The affection is easily explained. Being in my late teens and living in Basildon when Depeche Mode first started releasing records I did not have a lot of choice in the matter. I’m sure that anyone of a similar age who was living in Crawley will have a similar experience with the Cure. One day someone brought a copy of the NME into college (or maybe it was Sounds) which had a full-page photo of a new band from Basildon. They had yet to release any records, let alone sell them, but it was still a small thrill to see our anonymous yet much-derided new town mentioned in a positive way

Half the town bought their first single (Dreaming of me) on spec. I really liked it, but liked the B side (Ice Machine) even more. With just one almost-successful single on an independent label under their belts Depeche Mode were still playing venues like Southend Technical College and Racquel’s Ballroom in Basildon and drinking in the Town Centre pub with the rest of us but to anyone under twenty in that corner of Essex they were celebrities.

Within a few months the single New Life was in the charts and the album was selling well too. I bought both and played them to death. Most critics will point to their later post-Vince Clarke work as being more worthy, deeper, darker and just plain better, but I still like these clean, simple, poppy songs and had a fantastic evening hearing some of the non-singles like Boys Say Go!, Nodisco and Big Muff for the first time in many years.

Even the sleeve notes admit that these songs sound a little naive compared to more recent material, but they still have a certain charm.

Compared to my old much-played vinyl copy, even a normal CD re-issue would sound much cleaner, but this re-release has been re-mastered in all sorts of ways. The first disc is a hybrid SACD so those with the necessary kit can listen to it in a 5.1 mix. The second disc is a DVD that has all the original album tracks available in stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 plus a few extra tracks with the same options. It also has a short film on it too.

The 5.1 mixing has been done sensibly so that it is efective without being gimmicky, and as a result the music is much punchier than I remember it. Tonight my sub-woofer decided to start working again and even the kitchen was vibrating.

The extra tracks are well-chosen. Dreaming of Me has been added to the main album (it was never on the UK release) and the additional tracks are Ice Machine (the first B side), Shout (the B side to New Life), and different versions of Any Second Now and Just Can’t Get Enough (the schizo mix from the 12″ single). My only complaint would be that Shout was only the version from the 7″ single of New Life and not the extended one from the 12″ single, which was awesome – if I remember rightly.

The set is completed by a booklet with some reminiscences from Daniel Miller and all the lyrics.

To say that I’m impressed would be an understatement, and I am seriously considering the similar packages for Some Great Reward and Construction Time Again, and I have not even listened to the normal stereo CD version yet – I’ll save that for when it is transferred to the iRiver.

Tags: ··

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Rullsenberg

    Ah, it’s so nice to know there is another early Depeche Mode fan out there. I saw them on the Construction concert tour (I think it may even have been my first independently chosen concert eg not going to see stuff chosen by my parents: looking back I was a bit older than most for taking control of choosing and attending gigs…)

    Anyway, you’ve certainly sold me on that release of Speak and Spell etc. I had an old ‘crunch drop’ record player and once I realised that this wasn’t the best treatment for vinyl I actually shifted to buying tapes as I couldn’t afford a decent record player. Hence my copy of Speak and Spell is a much worn out cassette tape. It would be nice to hear it through a decent sound system.

  • Bloggers4Labour

    I’ve got a fairly elderly copy of S&S on CD, which I go through phases of playing a lot. Funny thing is that it seems to have the same bonus tracks as the new one (Ice Machine, Shout, etc).

    Wouldn’t say I was a huge DM fan, though. ‘Enjoy the Silence’ is the only other track I’ve heard that I particularly like…

  • Skuds

    Lisa – as you can see from Andrew’s comment, the older CD issue of Speak & Spell has the same tracks.

    If you have an SACD player, or a surround amp for your DVD player then the new one does give you a bit more, but if not try and find the plain CD and save a few quid.

    For some reason, although I have a soft spot for the Vince Clarke stuff, the song I like most is See You.

  • elephunt

    The 12 inch version of See You is still in my mum’s gathering dust.See You had the longest instrumental intro of any record I ever owned.