Depeche Mode

Stripped

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The first true herald of Depeche Mode 's late '80s/early '90s glory days, "Stripped" remains not merely a highlight of Black Celebration but a fantastic song through and through. Starting with the gentlest of acoustic guitar chords, it then shifts into a slow-building, majestic number that feels like a film soundtrack for some vast epic, with deep-echoed drums, soothing and soaring synth lines, and a low purring growl in the background. David Gahan's masterful delivery of Martin Gore's lyric, as focused a meditation on desire and possession that's emotional and physical, is the final touch, with Gore's own lightly sung parts in the chorus the perfect response. Flood's separate "highland" mix emphasizes the synth orchestration that puts the song over the top via a slightly different version at the start of the song, combined with even more echo on the drums and a starker, clearer mix at many other points. "Breathing in Fumes," meanwhile, is a radical revision, with an in-your-face drum mix, a heavily distorted snippet of Gahan singing the title lyric over his original take, and an overtly industrial/dance atmosphere -- it's great, but won't be everyone's cup of tea. The one original number that surfaces as a B-side, "But Not Tonight," is a sweet little song that's just dark enough (but still winsome in general delivery and arrangement), focuses on the joys of life, and has a good evening vibe. It was later tacked on the American version of Black Celebration but works better here as a fun semi-throwaway, while its extended mix is the expected expansion with minimal transformation. The "quiet" mix of "Fly on the Windscreen," which removes most of the percussion in favor of the lead melody lines, and "Black Day," the striking demo for "Black Celebration," consisting of what sounds like wheezing organ and harmonica behind Gore's original vocal, conclude the disc.

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