Best tunes of 2001: #18 Depeche Mode “Dream on”

<< #19    |    #17 >>

I’d been a pretty ardent follower of Depeche Mode since Violator in 1990, gobbling up the other two albums they unleashed in the 90s, both “Songs of faith of devotion” and “Ultra” being solid albums, the former more than the latter in this blogger’s books. By the time 2001 rolled around and almost four years had past since their last album, the shine of Depeche Mode had worn off a bit for me and they were no longer front of mind. So it took me a while before I got around to listening to their tenth studio offering, “Exciter”.

If you can pardon my obviousness, I actually didn’t find the album all that exciting. In fact, this was the first of their albums that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy all the way through, a trend that has unfortunately continued through to their most recent work. That’s not to say I dislike the band now, nay, each album has given us some very good tracks. I just don’t find Mode as consistently good as they were through the 80s and 90s.

“Dream on” is one of the highlights of “Exciter” for me. You can hear the influence of producer Mark Bell (LFO, Björk) with the EDM beats throughout the record but here, it’s augmented by a bluesy acoustic guitar riff that just doesn’t quit. Dave Gahan’s vocal work is almost soulful and old-timey, clear and front of the palette of the austere production with Martin Gore adding his usual flourishes at opportune moments. Gore’s song subject is an addict hitting rock bottom and you feel that he is a addressing a woman he could love if she would give him the chance. But it’s Gahan that is singing the words and he does so from a place of experience.

“Feel the fever coming
You’re shaking and twitching
You can scratch all over
But that won’t stop you itching”

This is Depeche Mode. And it’s awesome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1991: #26 Jesus Jones “International bright young thing”

<< #27    |    #25 >>

Surely you all remember “Right here, right now” and some of you might recall “Real, real, real”, but what about “International bright young thing”?

I feel like I might get some mixed responses to this question. In North America, only the first of these received ridiculous amounts of airplay, still getting some smatterings here and there on today’s pop radio and some usage in commercials now and again, so that most might only remember the band for that one song. But I’d be curious to hear from our friends in Europe and England, where “International bright young thing” actually outperformed the other two, ending up the highest charting single from “Doubt”.

To be honest, “Doubt” was the one album I knew (and I imagine the same could be said for most people) but the band has actually released five albums. (And would you believe that a new one, their first in 17 years, is due out in the spring?) I couldn’t tell you if their sound has evolved over the years, though I can’t imagine it hasn’t, but “Doubt” is definitely of its time and place. Alternative dance was all the rage in 1991 and Jesus Jones was right on the front lines. I’ve listened to the album a number of times over the last little while, bringing back tonnes of memories each time, and I’ve decided I still love it, despite it obviously showing its age.

I’ve thought about dragging out and boring you with some of those stories and memories that this band and this particular song dredge up. Like the one about how this album somehow converted my friend Jason, the world’s biggest Poison fan, to alternative music. Or the one about how my friend Elliott ran into Mike Edwards outside the MuchMusic building in Toronto, asked for his autograph, and instead learned what a ‘dick’ the lead singer was. Or I could talk about the night I watched the video for “International bright young thing” over and over on videocassette for well over half an hour one night. But such a high energy dance begs something more exciting.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to invent something because I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever heard a Jesus Jones song played in a dance club. It could be that I never got out to an alternative club until ‘94 or later and by that time, these guys had already run their course. But there must’ve been a Saturday night at the Moon Room or The Crow’s Nest or The Dance Cave or Whiskey Saigon (all clubs I’ve enjoyed in the past) where the DJ knowingly slipped this single on and I can see it as I slip it on myself and close my eyes.

The dance floor is already full from EMF’s “Unbelievable“, the previous song, and that frantic beat comes on. There’s sweat soaked t-shirts everywhere and long hair flailing. The dance floor is littered with crinkled plastic beer cups. My friend Tim is at the bar because it’s last call. He makes a gesture asking if I want another and I brandish a big thumbs up. The guitar loop and the electricity of it all is enough fuel for now. There’s lasers and lights and thumping beats and nothing else and it’s brilliant.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #4 The Radio Dept. “This time around”

For years and years and years, my good (old) friends and I have gone fall camping in Algonquin Park. We originally picked the fall, rather than the crazed, busy summer, so that it would be quieter, despite the fact that once we got drinking, we were often the loudest in the park. Over the years, it has gotten busier deeper into the season and we’ve had to push our date further, from early October to early November. And yes, we’ve had some really cold nights and often get snow, but we’ve learned a thing or two over the years and as our salaries have increased, we’ve invested in better gear. Our conversations around the usually massive campfire are never very deep. We catch up, relive stories, laugh, and talk movies and, of course, music.

One such trip, many, many, many years ago now, my friend Tim famously brought up an article he had read on The Charlatans (UK, for those of us in North America). Whoever had written the article suggested that though they survived the longest of their contemporaries, they were no one’s favourite band. Our friend Tim, emboldened by multiple beers, brashly went further, suggesting that they might not have had any lasting influence and that a few years after they stopped producing music, they might be forgotten altogether. There were raised voices and indignation, and I was amongst the two or three that disagreed with him. It has become a running joke ever since with Tim facetiously asking “Who?” whenever the band comes up in conversation.

Fast forward to 2010, I don’t know how many years later, and I am on bus, commuting home from work. I am perusing the latest album by this Swedish band I had just came across and something clicks. These guys may not be directly influenced by but they certainly sounded a lot like The Charlatans on their debut album, “Some friendly”!

The Radio Dept. formed in Lund, Sweden in the late 1990s and adopted a dream pop sound with an often danceable edge. “This time around” is track three off their third album, “Clinging to a scheme”. It was never released as a single but easily could’ve been. It is infectious beats, airy, laser show guitars, and lazy vocals, albeit fattened with effects, sounding so much like a young Tim Burgess. The major difference that is most obvious to me is that in the case of The Radio Dept., the lyrics are intelligible, and are often politically charged.

“You feel old like the fight
Learning new ways to be right
And how to cope with disloyalty
It’s not a song
That will prove them wrong
This time around.”

Enjoy! And to all you Charlies fans, let me know if I am crazy or not. You can hear it too, right?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.