Consider this a primer, because there is no way a career spanning 25 years can be summarized justifiably within the cramped space of an 80-minute disc. The Best of Depeche Mode, Vol. 1 takes a very selective skip through the group's past, and it leaves no room for anything off Black Celebration -- an album many fans (albeit the most depressive ones) cite as a favorite. While the relatively thorough Singles 81>85 and Singles 86>98 can be seen as the proper entry route, they don't have the benefit of covering 2001's Exciter or 2005's excellent Playing the Angel, so this disc -- as of 2006, at least -- is very nearly the best possible way to get a feel for the whole daunting discography. Tending to stick to the singles that made the greatest impact on the mainstream and club charts, the selections do signify that the group hasn't lost any traction. Just compare the difference between 1981's "Just Can't Get Enough" and 2005's "Precious" to the difference between the Rolling Stones' "Time Is on My Side" (1964) and "Mixed Emotions" (1989); Depeche Mode remained on an even keel creatively, while the Stones were hailed for continuing to exist and for making music that didn't embarrass their legacy. (If that's not a slap in the face of real rock & rollers who laughed at the thought of synth pop as more than a silly trend, what is?) Also consider this: If a poll were to be conducted in order to determine the absolute favorite Depeche Mode song of all time, there would be at least 40 write-ins in addition to the 18 options (including a decent new song) provided here. So, if you should happen to pick up this disc as an introduction and find yourself knocked out, you have a lot of catching up in your future.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman