Various Artists 
For The Masses

Understand me here. I really like Depeche Mode. And I really like most of the artists chosen to be on this tribute to DM. Yet I found myself, after listening to the first handful of covers, wondering...why? Why present an album of Depeche Mode covers when very few of them do anything more than imitate, not expand on the originals? Smashing Pumpkins open it on a hopeful note with their eerie “Never Let Me Down Again,” and Failure and Dishwalla offer pretty fair revamps of “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth.” Apollo Four Forty also proves a good cover band with its dead-on run-through of “I Feel You” and The Cure can’t really be faulted for managing to both accurately rerecord “World In My Eyes” and still adopt it as their own.

Taken on their own, all of these hold some novelty interest (“oh wow — the Pumpkins must really be into Depeche Mode, huh?). But somehow when you line them up back to back, they start to sound like a collection of carefully crafted yet soul-less imitations, the artists trapped in an unyielding beatbox.

But then comes Veruca Salt with its delicate piano and cello interplay on the melancholy “Somebody,” and the soul of DP is again more than just a ghost in a pile of yellowed photographs. Thereafter come the breakthroughs. Locust plays kitschy ‘60s lounge band with a male-female Elvis/Ann Margaret-esque reading of “Master and Servant.” Self takes ahold of “Shame” and subverts it into a warped, funky, guitar crazed bit of ... Self-ishness. How did the Mode version go again?

Hooverphonic’s breathy but sleek reading of “Shake the Disease” (which sounds more like early ‘90s DP-influenced band Anything Box than DP) and Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Everything Counts” manage to prove that you can actually cover DP faithfully and recreate just as strong a groove. But this rash of inspiration stays in the disc’s middle.

On the downside of the Oreo comes Monster Magnet’s sound effects heavy “Black Celebration,” Icelanders’ Gus Gus’ drafty techno take on “Monument,” and the Deftones attack on “To Have And To Hold” which, admittedly, has guitars, but not much else.

A mixed bag. I’d opt for the new Depeche Mode greatest hits album if not for the shining moments of Veruca Salt, Self and Hooverphonic. And of course, The Pumpkins. But you probably already have that single anyway, right?

(Depeche Mode, by the way, will bring its tour for the upcoming double-CD greatest hits package to Rosemont Horizon on November 24.)


Soundtracks and Collections

David Bowie covers have been hot this summer. I’ve heard a handful, including The Wallflowers’ hit remake of “Heroes” and Anggun’s wonderfully rich run-through of “Life on Mars.” The most recent comes courtesy of Marilyn Manson on the Dead Man On Campus soundtrack on Dreamworks. The band does a surprisingly straight Bowie impression with only slightly sinister guitar overtone in “Golden Years.” The disc also includes a Bowie-esque original by Supergrass, the glammy, harmony-rich “We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give)” and a cheesy dance grind cover of the Bay City Rollers’ “I Only Want To Be With You” by Twiggy & Twiggy (this one sounds like ABBA paired with a restrained Marilyn Manson.) Blur offers a funky bit of falsetto and sound effects weirdness in “Cowboy Song” and Elastica continues its string of soundtrack appearances (are they ever going to actually put out a second album?) with “Human,” a moody groove dirge. Self contributes the hippest bit of taut guitar pop with “Paint By Numbers” which pairs a lounge electric piano with a new wave guitar buzz. There’s also a techno dance remix of The Dust Brothers’ “Realize,” a poorly remixed version of Soul Coughing’s “Super Bon Bon” that circumnavigates the song’s innate quirky rhythm with a straight-ahead drum riff. There are also songs from Powerman 5000, Creed, Jonathan Fire Eater, and Audioweb.

Patti LaBelle has released a live album on MCA Records taped for a PBS special. Patti LaBelle - Live! One Night Only features guest performances by Mariah Carey and Gerald & Eddie Levert and includes LaBelle hits “New Attitude,” “Lady Marmalade,” “You Are My Friend” and her concert favorite “Over The Rainbow.”

Motown is celebrating its 40th anniversary by re-releasing best of albums from Rare Earth (“Get Ready,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You”), Willie Hutch (“Love Power,” “Brother’s Gonna Work it Out”) and Edwin Starr (“War,” “Easin’ In”). The label has also mined the vaults to release Motown Sings Motwon Treasures, a 21-song collection (18 of which have never before been released) that spotlights Motown artists singing other Motown artists’ hits. David Ruffin sings the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” the Jackson 5 offer The Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” and Marvin Gaye tackles The Temptation’s “My Girl.” Motown fans will love this rarities collection which the label calls the “greatest hits you’ve never heard.

Rhino Records is busy mining the past, as usual this month. First we get KC & The Sunshine Band’s Dance Remixes with revisions of “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “Get Down tonight,” and “Boogie Shoes,” among others. Rhino has also released a box set of garage hits from the late ‘60s. Nuggets is a four-CD set that collects Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968. Nuggets was originally released on Elektra Records in 1972 as a double album (collected on one of this set’s four CDs). Rhino has expanded that original collection to now offer 116 songs, among them The Standells’ “Dirty Water,” The Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard,” The Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” and The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.” This is the definitive collection of late ‘60s “fuzz-rock.”