Written by Fantasma el Rey
Re-issued by Rhino as a two-disk set, Depeche Mode’s fifth album, Black Celebration is truly that and I dig it. This is where the band began to make their move in a darker direction, departing from the popish sound that dominated their earlier albums. The style begun here is what the masses would come to know as the Depeche Mode sound: dark, moody, often slow and yet still danceable. At this time in their career, the band was still primarily known as an excellent live band with no more than a small cult following.
From the get-go, Black Celebration moves and doesn’t let you down. The songs selected for the album are dominated by dark, emotional lyrics and vocals, be it low-key ballads or the pulsating drive of faster, up-tempo tunes. The band’s search for new sounds and noises to incorporate into their music is still fresh and innovative; a few of the creative sounds come from motor vehicles.
The title track opens the disk and sets the stage for the rest of the album. “Black Celebration” slowly builds to a drum-driven, metallic-ping infested, danceable tune. This flows quickly into another up-tempo cut, “Fly On The Windsreen – Final.” The lyrics are conveyed with a passionate “sense of urgency” by lead vocalist David Gahan. “Death is everywhere/There are flies on the windscreen for a start/ Reminding us we could be torn apart/ Tonight,”
Track three, “A Question Of Lust” is filled with album firsts: first question-titled tune, first slow ballad, and the first time on the disk that we get to hear Martin Gore’s quiet, plaintive, smooth vocals. “Black Celebration” is also the first Depeche Mode disk on which Gore gets a chance to shine and carry more than just a cut or two.
Question song the second is the furiously paced “A Question Of Time.” This one gives off a race against time vibe as the drums move swiftly and the keyboards provide the ominous sounds of an industrial, synth-based, electric clock ticking away doom’s countdown.
“Stripped” is the song where audio creativity runs wild. The tune opens with the sound of an idling motorbike, producing a wonderful pulse and moves into a starting Porsche. Drums crash and the keyboards continue their dominance by providing more metallic pings, suction sounds, echoes and odd inhaling. The disk rounds out with the nihilistic “World Full Of Nothing,” the piano-filled “Sometimes” with its gospel-choir opening and the eerie, “early horror movie” sounds of “Dressed In Black.”
Disk two is a DVD is good for the hour-long “Depeche Mode: 1985-86,” but the extra songs fall short. It’s not the song quality or song selection by any means. I think the sound is truly awesome; the album proper is presented in 5.1 Stereo so even when the television volume was low I could hear songs loud and clear. The tracks selected are great and some of the alternate versions and B-sides are truly gems.
The problem for me is that I rarely, if ever use my DVD player and television for listening to or playing music. So the excellent bonus tracks and live cuts are pretty much lost on me. I’m sure someday Depeche Mode will put out a kick ass B-sides and rarities box set a-la The Cure’s Join The Dots. Overall, the Black Celebration re-issue is a good set with one major draw back; then again I am a bit behind the times.