Friday, March 17, 2017

determined day of release

howdy pop pickers

well, i did it. at last, some several weeks if not months into 2017 i managed to get to HMV and buy a smart new pop record on the veritable day of release, look you see. this took some doing to, erm, well, do, really, but we shall go through this tale together, should you select or if you like elect to continue reading.

and what record was it that i have hinted at going to so much effort for in order to purchase in an actual music shop on its day of release? that would be Spirit, with it being (i think) the 14th studio album by the band with the diminishing membership. no, seriously - they are now a trio, i think it was 5 if not 6 members they started off with.

actually looking at the cover i would be pretty sure, then, that when they started off there were five of the Depechies, or maybe 5 Moders sounds better. that would, would it not, explain why the cover shows what seems to be five people marching with flags? 3 are prominent, 2 are somewhat "back". makes sense to me.

if you are in a rush and just want a quick review of it, i'm just about done with my first listen to the album and it's good. as in, really good. better than the lead single, Where's The Revolution, suggested at, and better than the last two albums (Sounds Of The Universe and Delta Machine) indicated. my efforts in getting a legal, physical copy from an actual proper music store were then vindicated.

right, for those of you with a bit more time and/or patience, and for some reason either enjoy my waffle or quite like my adventures and shall tolerate said waffle to read of them, here we go with the adventure, of sorts, i had in getting this.

but first a picture for all you visual fans. yes indeed, in a refreshing change HMV had a display up for an album in the window. two, actually, and no i did not but the second one. now that i think, and excuse me but it was a real fast visit, i didn't even see the second on the shelf.

in days gone by my getting to HMV on the day a record was released was no biggie. i could wander up in relative leisure during lunch and get it. it is no longer the case that those days are here. my day is formidable and chocker and, whilst all good, works at a different pace. one that does not have an hour for lunch.

i was partially resigned, then, to not ever being able to get to HMV on the day of release for a record again. this did not sit well with my determined way of doing what i wish to make the world how i want it to be - even in simplistic things such as buying vibes - and so i made a plan. as traffic was relatively on my side i was able, on my way to verk, to park in the parking area of the shopping centre where HMV is, dash in, buy the record, dash back to the car, pay for parking (that bit is tres important), park where i normally would when going to verk, dash for coffee and then engage in meaningful employment. this was all done in, say, 10 to 15 minutes. phew.

this exercise was costly. no, not the cost of the record (which was high as we will see), but the cost of parking the car. although i was in the car park for less than 10 minutes i was charged the "per hour" rate, which means i paid £1.50 to be able to achieve what i wanted. that might seem trivial, but every penny counts. and it is not like i could not have got the record online, delivered or bought at a later, more convenient time.

the two versions of Spirit by Depeche Mode on display inside HMV? surely. 

no, i did not purchase the Dame Vera Lynn recording either. i was there for Depeche Mode, and Depeche Mode alone, and thus that is all that i bought. well, that and a 5p bag for no apparent reason.

across four decades and in at least three different countries i have been told by unrelated and unconnected people that one of the most admirable and respected qualities of moi is that, when i am of a mind to do so, i will go and do what i am determined to do or achieve, and i will say what i believe is right. this is highly flattering, but i am not sure how far from correct it actually is - a little, some or a lot, perhaps. for a start i am aware of my own failings and perhaps people are just polite not to mention them when they are aware of them. also, sometimes, as illustrated here in my determination come what may to buy a CD in a store on its day of release, as much as some things make me happy to do perhaps i am doing them for pointless reasons.

which version, to give us a break from moi, of the new Depeche Mode album did i purchase? i hesitated for a bit, but in the end it was "go big or go home", and i figured there was little point doing all which i had done to get to the store to do this if i wasn't going to get the so-called "special edition".

yeah, sorry for the lack of warning that a picture of me was going to feature in this blog. for some reason certain readers like to see me from time to time, which is nice, and so the odd selfie does tend to crop up at times like this.

just why is going into a store and buying music - in particular on the day it is released - so important to me? nostalgia, i suppose, and a preference for how the world was when this was the only practical way of getting music, bar taping it off of a mate's record. it's not rose tinted glasses, either - although yes, oh yes, the world was all so much simpler in my youth when you got a (cheap, reliable and regular) bus into town with your mates to buy a 7" single, or maybe the 12" if it looked decent.

the social, interactive side of buying music in a store dedicated to music staffed by people who loved music serving patrons who loved music. the physical bond you make with music when you can hold it, touch it, and all that. all this downloading and streaming stuff, whether stolen or bought, is wonderfully convenient, but i do fear the heavy price for getting music cheaper is that it's lost so very much of the magic.

but hey, the genie isn't going back in the bottle any time soon. a recent increase in physical format sales (one of the few positives of the current Ed Sheeran chart debacle) isn't likely to be sustained. when the kids can hear songs free, or have access to millions of records from a subscription service, there's no way they are going to turn around and say "actually i would like to go and spend some or all of what i spend on streaming on just one record". fair enough, but i will be continuing with taking in music the way i did which had me fall in love with it in the first place.

how about an actual review of the record Spirit by Depeche Mode, then, since ostensibly that's why you are all here, and specifically that's what this post should always have been about. certainly.

when a band has a formidable discography to their name it is sometimes nice to see where the latest record slots in. i am loathe to compare different artists with or against each other, but i have no hesitation at all in comparing the works of one artist in such a way. what else would you compare it to?

in this regard, should a survey ever be done it would be a shock, never mind surprise, if Violator was not fairly unilaterally declared to be their greatest album. Songs Of Faith And Devotion would not be at all far behind that, and i suspect an earlier, more pop-friendly focused record such as Construction Time Again (referenced in this record with numerous images of the band with sledgehammers) would be high up too. my all time favourite Depeche Mode album, however, would be the brooding, dark unrelenting genius of Ultra. with Playing The Angel not being far behind.

Spirit is closer to the above albums than it is the not quite so celebrated other ones i didn't mention. it is also miles (and miles and miles) better than the last two they put out, as referenced at the start for those in a rush. i mean, seriously, when i first heard Delta Machine i thought "their time is up and this must be some sort of contractual obligation release". it is a joy to hear them motivated into doing the finer work they were always associated with, rather than simply getting away with something that sounds vaguely familiar.

the above is one page out of the 28 page booklet what i got as the "deluxe edition". for £8 more than the standard version, then, i got some images of the band not shying away from the fact that they look old, and a 27 minute bonus disc featuring remixes of five of the tracks on the album - with not one of them being a remix of the lead single Where's The Revolution. as in i gambled on spending more on some nice pictures and remixes of five songs that i might not like in any format.

and indeed yes, that is one of several pictures of the band apparently referencing Construction Time Again by holding sledgehammers. who knows, maybe quite deliberate, acknowledging that some reinvention and rediscovery was required after the last two records. do pay attention, Primal Scream - don't let Chaosmosis be a sorry end to your days. and you too, Duran Duran, whose last album - the name of which i failed to catch - was so bad that i could not get through it.

tone of the album? i am comfortable saying "passive aggressive", since that's quite a buzz term. it feels strange speaking of it in negatives, but it does not have the desolate despair of Ultra and it does not have the biting, vicious ferocious approach of, say, Playing The Angel. and yet substantial parts of the record echoes both at once. and, by jove, it works.

a really, really pleasant thing here is the fact that, all of a sudden, Where's The Revolution sounds good. damned good. i was not too taken with it at first - that's the dangers of listening to music on a PC or tablet as an mp3 rather than on a proper CD or slab of vinyl.

i could be mistaken, but i am used to Martin L Gore doing vocals on just one track on a Depeche Mode. here he does two, although one's fairly short. not really a dramatic change to things, as Dave Gahan's voice is the one that dominates proceedings. and dominates it does.

stand out, or if you like outstanding moments? pretty much all of it. opening track Going Backwards starts with an excellent hook - musically and lyrically - and the thing just does not let go.You Move is all bass city, so that's going to be a favourite of mine. and So Much Love has "single" all over it, if only we lived in a time when singles were still relevant. the remix on the disc of it is boss, too. and n terms of my "passive aggressive" review, this one is most decidedly aggressive.

weak spots? probably Poorman. well intentioned and not bad (but not great) musically, it does that rather misguided thing when fabulous rock and pop stars recall their early struggles and show their solidarity and plight with the less well off of the present day.

the remix disc and the special edition entire, then. the reality is that if i had bought the standard edition of Spirit i would be sat here wishing i got the special edition. as it stands, i am thinking that maybe the standard edition would have done the job. the remixes are OK but will seldom get played in preference to the album. as for the book, well, nice pictures but i am no longer a teenager and they are no longer teenage pin-ups. there are only so many more pictures of Depeche Mode that i need in my life.

so, then, for me Spirit is the best album of the year that is 2017. thus far. Piano Portraits was great, but this is a new album proper. it will be interesting to see next week how many agree with me. with the "cheat" in place to secure Ed Sheeran as number one in the album chart for the rest of the year and all of the singles chart for as long as possible i doubt this will crack the top spot, but i hope it does well. it deserves to, and it's a record that's worth your time and money.

thanks, as ever, for taking the time to read all of this. and if you give Spirit a shot, i really hope it works for you. it does, at the least, for me.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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