Various Artists

For the Masses

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For anyone who was a teenager at any time in the '80s, Depeche Mode was an omnipresent force. Even if you didn't listen to the synth pop pioneers, you knew someone who did, or at least saw a group of somber kids with freaky haircuts who wore DM T-shirts. That's the reason why it shouldn't be surprising that there's a wide range of artists on For the Masses, the first major-label tribute to Depeche Mode. Of course, it doesn't quite answer the question of whether a Depeche Mode tribute album was necessary, but almost all tribute albums are unnecessary. Tribute albums are almost always uneven, as well, and that's the case here -- not only because the performances themselves are hit-and-miss -- it's also because Depeche Mode were, perhaps appropriately, more about style than substance, which means that their songs are difficult to cover without replicating the original arrangements. That, unfortunately, is true of even the best songs -- Failure injects heavy guitars into "Enjoy the Silence," but it remains tied to the original -- only a few bands are able to make a DM song their own. the Smashing Pumpkins effectively turn "Never Let Me Down Again" into one of their trademark ballads; the Cure explode "World in My Eyes" into a thrilling sampledelic psychedelic mess; Gus Gus make "Monument" sound techno-fresh; and the ridiculous Rammstein actually make "Stripped" into a genuinely menacing metallic monster. Moments like these -- covers that actually bring a new perspective to the song -- are rare on tribute albums. They're almost good enough to make the overall mediocrity of the album worthwhile.

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