Various Artists
For The Masses


4.0
excellent

Review

by Stephen Gore USER (43 Reviews)
May 19th, 2011 | 12 replies | 4,081 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In which a bunch of mostly American alternative rock bands pay tribute to four knob-twiddlers from Basildon.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

It's said to be a mystery. Ask almost any member of an American rock, metal or industrial band what they think of Depeche Mode, and, far from dismissing them as just another bunch of European knob-twiddlers, they'll invariably wax lyrical about how much they listened to them as a teen, how much of an influence they were and how great the songs are. That's the SONGS mind you; if anything this album shows that most of their fans took different paths when making their own music. It's the raw materials, the simple, stripped-back songs that they liked, and wanted to pay tribute to.

The tribute album. Karaoke for bored millionaires? Usually, yes, and that's why they're often so crap. If the artists deviate too much from the original songs, the fans get mad. If they stick to the script, the reviewers say they lack creativity. It's a no-win situation. Fortunately, what For The Masses delivers is an eclectic mix of covers that satisfies both. For most of the songs here, the song structures remain largely the same, but sound amazingly fresh because of the alt-rock angle. Apollo 440 realised that nothing could really be done to hold 'I Feel You's chugging guitar riff, so they kept it, but added plenty of dense layers of samples and squeals that give the song a dirtier, grimier feel. Dishwalla take the housey 'Policy of Truth' and turn it into a relentless, driving groove, while Deftones's version of 'To Have and To Hold' eclipses the original by some distance, burying the song in a mire of murk and slams.

The Cure cover Depeche Mode. A sentence guaranteed to make any morbid 80s goth downright tumescent with excitement, it nevertheless stands as perhaps the album's biggest anticlimax; a hyperactive mess of samples and yelping that's still decent, but not the great meeting of bands that it perhaps could have been (we can only wonder what would have happened if Robert Smith had gone for his second choice, 'Walking In My Shoes'). It's still a refreshingly different take, as are many other gems - Veruca Salt deliver a wonderful performance on 'Somebody', Louise Post's vocals making it both saccharine and slightly creepy at the same time. Self's version of 'Shame' is so different from the original, it actually ends up being good. The 'other' artists here (read: not alternative rock) deliver some brilliant covers too: Hooverphonic go all the way with trippiness on 'Shake The Disease', a bizarre, floaty song of swirling synths and dreamy vocals, while 'Master and Servant' is covered by Locust (AKA Mark Van Hoen) and rendered as creepily submissive as the original was brashly dominant.

The Smashing Pumpkins show admirable restraint with 'Never Let Me Down Again', resisting the temptation to replicate the majesty and doominess of the original and instead turning it into a bluesy ballad that, impossibly, works. Rammstein finish the album by delivering the token comedy moment with their over-the-top cover of 'Stripped', but the true highpoint of the album is discovering possibly the greatest cover of 'Enjoy The Silence' yet made. The now sadly-disbanded Failure waited until the end of their career to deliver this cover which, while staying true to the original, still builds and develops in a way that puts it head and shoulders above most other attempts.

It's rumoured that Nine Inch Nails and Marylin Manson were due to contribute songs, but were unable to at the time. Maybe a couple more big names would have brought this album the attention it deserved; an album that is confident to include obscure songs ('Shame', 'Monument') and songs that manage to sound very different to the originals, while keeping the brilliance that made them so popular in the first place. Now surely, that's what a good tribute album should be about?



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Comments:Add a Comment 
bloc
May 19th 2011



34489 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I remember this album! The Enjoy The Silence cover by Failure is probably my favourite cover of that song.

Digging: Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead

Kaleid
May 19th 2011



709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It really is great, isn't it? Manson was due to cover Personal Jesus, but he had to put it off til later.
Always wanted to know what NIN would have done.

bloc
May 19th 2011



34489 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Manson did a good job with Jesus, it definitely would have been a great addition to this album. NIN would have been interesting too, but I definitely think it would be hit or miss all depending on what song they chose to cover.

And I totally forgot that Rammstein's Stripped cover is on this, it's sooooooo good.

Kaleid
May 19th 2011



709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd like to hear NIN do something like 'Halo', I think that would be the right kind of song for them (Goldfrapp's cover was decent though)

Mewcopa0
May 19th 2011



1792 Comments


hmm i m getting this


Willie
Moderator
May 20th 2011



15774 Comments


Fuck yeah. I used to have this CD, but I lost it in England. I think the Failure and Veruca Salt songs are the best, but I'm surprised that you didn't mention the God Lives Underwater song too. That one is one of the better ones. Good review.

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

Kaleid
May 20th 2011



709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I suppose I should have, it was God Lives Underwater that got this idea off the ground, and their cover is decent. You know what I'm like about Depeche though; I would have liked to have done a detailed track by track but the review would have been massive

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 10th 2011



1106 Comments


I've been meaning to check this one out. Good review, Kaleid, pos.

Kaleid
July 10th 2011



709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks. Going by your taste in music, I'm not actually sure you'd like it, but I'd recommend you at least check out the ETS cover. You'll probably also like Hooverphonic's stab at Shake The Disease.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 10th 2011



1106 Comments


Cheers for the recs. You know i'm into The Cure and Rammstein are actually one of my favourtie metal bands, so i already know and love that cover, but yeah, unsure about the rest. I might give it a go anyway, just as a curio.

DutchDevotee
February 20th 2012



37 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love this album, though I rated it 'only' 3.5. This mainly comes from the disappointments form the versions of The Cure, God Lives Underwater (I love FOTW too much, so any cover is a disappointment) and meat Beat Manifesto. I absolutely love the songs by Veruca Salt (better than the original!), Hooverphonic (brilliant band, brilliant cover), Self, Locust and The Deftones.

Kaleid
February 20th 2012



709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree that a couple of versions were disappointing, but only because they were safe. They weren't awful; in fact, I don't think there's a bad song on here.



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