Judge Kent Dixon prefers his Depeche à la Mode.
Our reviews of Depeche Mode: A Broken Frame (published February 1st, 2007), Depeche Mode: Songs Of Faith And Devotion (published February 1st, 2007), and Depeche Mode: The Dark Progression Unauthorized (published June 17th, 2009) are also available.
"The thing about Depeche Mode songs is that they're so descriptive. For me, they tell some kind of story about a character who's trying to redeem himself or to find something to believe in…some kind of faith or hope."—Dave Gahan, lead singer
As is often the case with music groups, four school-age friends came together in 1980 to form Depeche Mode. Hailing from the small town of Basildon, east of London, the four lads would come to be known as possibly the greatest electronic bands of all time, and even one of the greatest bands of any genre. Inspiring other artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Pet Shop Boys, Linkin Park and dozens more, Depeche Mode have made an indelible mark on music history.
Starting out performing what might best be described as synth pop, Depeche Mode quickly developed a style and sound all their own, exploring new territory with every new album. I'm not sure why I've never made the connection before, but it was interesting to me that founding Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke left the band to form two of my other favorite '80s acts: Yaz and Erasure. While Clarke left the band early, they would continue their rise to superstardom in the U.K. and Europe, and eventually bridging the Atlantic to find immense success in the U.S. For an act that has now had three of the same core members for more than 30 years, Depeche Mode continues to perform and reinvent themselves, showing no sign of heading for the reunion tour circuit any time soon.
I've been a fan of this band since the '80s, so I was very anxious to be able to review Depeche Mode Rewind: 30 Years at the Edge. While there are certainly great moments and some solid content here, overall this is a rather disappointing release. The high points include interviews with fellow musicians Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby and Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark; the three men are accomplished musicians in their own right, giving their praise and admiration for Depeche Mode carry even more weight.
The fine print on the back of the set really speaks volumes with the eight simple words: "this set is not authorized by Depeche Mode." What does that mean, you ask? There's really not much of a sense throughout the 157 minute run time of this release that we're really learning anything particularly new about either the individual band members or their career. Depeche Mode: Rewind is comprised of archival footage and stills, clips of Depeche music videos and on-camera interviews with former producers, recording industry journalists and people who knew them when they were first starting out. This set lacks the power of a release like Some Kind of Monster, the 2004 documentary that got up close and personal with the boys from Metallica. That film was intimate, revealing and powerful; this film is none of those things. It feels thin and somewhat disconnected, as though the producers were doing their very best to make the most of what little they had.
Abysmal: there's really no other word that describes the audio-visual presentation on this release. Sure, you could argue that the mixture of old and new content can't be helped in a retrospective documentary like this, or even that without the band's involvement, what kind of financial backing could this release have had? Whatever the argument you may try to use, there's no escaping the fact that we're left with a poor full screen video presentation and a 2.0 stereo mix that stays grounded in the center channel throughout the feature. Seriously!? This is the best we can do for a documentary about one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time? The extra features aren't much better, offering some minor extended interviews, a text-based discography, biographies of some of the film's contributors and a handful of other miscellaneous elements.
Depeche Mode continues to be one of the most influential music acts of all time, leaving hit after hit in their wake, selling more than a million albums, and earning Q magazine's assertion that they are "the most popular electronic band the world has ever known." Depeche Mode Rewind: 30 Years at the Edge offers nothing of any real value to hardcore fans and for anyone wanting to learn more about the band; Google is likely still your best source.
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