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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stands the test of time, 20 Mar 2004
By 
Jp Wills "big jon" (blackpool, lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speak & Spell (Audio CD)
Bought this on vinyl when it was first released, after having listened to the band on 'real' late night radio, Peel and Nightingale.
I loved the album back then and now 20'ish years later I still love it. It's just such good pop at face value but when you listen to the music and hear the words its no wonder this band are still about today. They've earned their stripes, now go buy this album and be entertained.................
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early DM, tinny but excellent for the time, 12 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Speak & Spell (Audio CD)
When this album first appeared in 1981, DM were being pitched against Human League, Ultravox, and Soft Cell. Unfairly, this album was considered the weakest of the lot, but in truth DM were doing different things. Notably is the Clarke influence (soon to team up with Alison Moyet), which ensured commercial success with "New Life" and "Just Can't Get Enough." But the real gems are "Photographic" and "Any Second Now." The CD is of high quality but a shame the record company has not blessed us with a copy of the outstanding original artwork/front cover. Had it done so, then '5 Star' rating would have been given here. "Speak and Spell" is worthy of it's shelf space against the aforementioned groups.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FUN FUN FUN, 22 Sep 2010
By 
P. Frizelle (England) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Speak And Spell (Audio CD)
There's a cuteness to this album that is so underrated. Think about it. We have depeche mode dressing up in dickie bow ties and suits, singing homoerotic lyrics, and dancing like nerds at a disco and all this just before they start wearing leather and shooting up. But they can be forgiven they were only Eighteen and in love with Bowie and Kraftwerk. It was the pop before the fizz. Depeche Mode definitely had a 'unique' start, looking over their 30 year-old career, the Basildon boys are a bigger live draw now than they ever were. This record, deriving many of its ideas from 60's harmonies and pop-rock, in turn went on to influence a host of artists and musical styles throughout the eighties, nighty's and girl bands of the noughtys. No fan of the 'dark' Mode could identify with much here, yet this album should be revered for what it is. It's a youthful, enthusiastic album, positively bouncing with energy, and explored a totally new attitude to producing music at the time.

New listeners cannot expect to hear this album quite the way their fans did at the time. With the band's 1981 debut, the increasingly adorable Speak & Spell, our distance from the original context actually makes things better. Of course, this is not the Depeche Mode we know: The songs on this album were written by Vince Clarke, who would shortly after leave the group and find fame with Yaz and Erasure. The sound is very different from what Depeche Mode would come to be and these of course, are the early days of synth-pop, these songs are building-block simple, bleepy and discoid, and the band sounds as gawky and adolescent as Dave Gahan looked. But we must remember a modern day vending machine has more microprocessor software than these early synthesizers ever had.

Like OMD, Gary Numan and early Human League they thought their brand of guitar-less synthpop was the future, it was naivety at it's purest. We have Dave Gahan singing like a teenage boy deeply in love and having the time of his life. Almost every track is catchy and infectious. Sure it sounds dated when you compare it with today's music but these guys were so young and technology wasn't as advanced as they thought. This record wears '80's cheese on its sleeve. If you're used to associating Depeche Mode with "gloom" and the like, be prepared to get startled! None of that is in Speak & Spell, Depeche Mode's first album. The band was probably aware of it and while the record wasn't well received particularly by them at the time, it gets a kinder reputation in later years. That's because even if every song from Violator is better than what's on here, they hadn't reached that level yet.

Even so, you get the ultra-catchy love song "Just Can't Get Enough," boppy and bouncy more than what you remember from them, yet excellent in its execution. The song may seem goofy for some, as it does sound like it when you hear Dave repeating "I just can't get enough" so many times in a row. But this was the 80's with a great sense an underground electronic vibe. I find it more consistent and enjoyable than some of their most acclaimed albums, but as I have mentioned in reviews music represents a snapshot in time and in rare cases perfectly capture the ambience and the mood.

This is fun if you can accept that DM began as a cheesy synth pop band and didn't emerge fully formed as the behind-the-curve industrial doom-mongers they now are. As with many 80s pop LPs, by which I mean the sort 14 year old girls might have bought at the time, this LP is the lightest and fluffiest Depeche album that you will come in contact with. Its upbeat, happy, and danceable (yes we are talking about Depeche Mode here). Their sound here is definitely plain with raw minimalist synth pop edge to it, the darkness isn't really there and it does sound a little cheesy but that is pretty much where the charm comes from. I remember seeing these guys on Top of the pops (1981) and thinking to myself they looked more like bank clerks or estate agents, furthermore there were no guitars - Hey I can do that, but as always it wasn't as simple as that even with my portable Casio synthesiser to which I could play the theme to Star Wars.

Back in the day Depeche Mode, were over looked as fodder for little girls, but in fairness they weren't always the great band that produced albums like Violator, Black Celebration and Some Great Reward. They came from rather humble beginnings, (Essex boys playing Truant from school) and on Speak & Spell sound like a totally different group. On later albums, their music had a Gothic flare, but that isn't really anywhere in sight. Most of Speak and Spell is listenable even if the majority of the songs aren't remarkable. It's easy to listen to this album and laugh. The keyboards are dated, the lead singer sounds ten years younger than he was (Gahan was 18 at the time) and the lyrics are nonsensical. Yet listen carefully, and you'll see why this album was so influential and important to the musical scene at the time.

'New Life' is representative of most of the album, in that it's energetic, youthful, upbeat, and still sounds ridiculously fresh after all these years. As mentioned above, the lyrics "I stand still stepping on a shady street/And I watch that man to a stranger" make absolutely no sense at all; they were chosen for phonetic value only; syllables that just seemed to fit the music.

The real climax of this album is 'Just Can't Get Enough'. You shouldn't need me to introduce you to this one. Bubblegum-pop in its purest form, it's constructed from deceptively multi-layered synths, and bounces along nicely enough. It's so catchy, it's very close to annoying.

The unfortunately most people are unaware of how far the band have come since this naive but enjoyable album...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some timeless classics, some real embarrassments..., 29 April 2010
By 
Scott Davies - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speak And Spell (Audio CD)
So this is where it all began. Speak and Spell certainly has a lot a really good material, mixed with some fairly embarrassing songs. Naggingly tedious tracks like 'Boys Say Go' and 'What's Your Name?', as well as the boys' attire in the 'Just Can't Get Enough' video, gave a (possibly??) misleading impression that Depeche Mode were an openly gay synth group. It must have just been a phase...

Aside from the aforementioned songs, there were elements of the dark edge that Martin Gore would hone when he became chief song writer after Vince Clark's departure. This darker and whispered rendition of 'Photographic' is far more satisfying than the earlier schizo-disco version released on the Some Bizzare compilation album.
'Puppets' is another along the same dark sound, but retains and attractive melody.
Bridging both worlds is the excellent 'Nodisco'.
Some of the the aggressively bouncy tracks have retained appeal over these years, including the big hit 'New Life', as well as the misleadingly titled 'I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead'. That song is full of twee keyboards with no talk of death, and may have been an in-joke contradiction between song and title.

And I have to say that I just CAN get enough of 'Just Can't Get Enough'. I cannot stand this song in any manner, and it's does not deserve the longevity that it has received. Awful, simply awful.

A couple of the best songs from this period were left for B sides, and stuck on the DVD. 'Ice Machine' may be my favorite song from this era, but 'Shout' comes close.

The remastering on this CD is excellent. It is not too loud or compressed, and had not been tweaked in any way that causes unwanted results. An excellent sounding product.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The young Basildon Boys still stand up today, 22 Dec 2007
By 
John Malcolm (Swindon, Wilts, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Speak and Spell [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
Enjoyable surround mix, which reveals some synth lines I hadn't noticed before. This brings a freshness to some songs that now sound a bit flat in simple stereo. Not always what I'd have put on the extra channels - maybe missed a trick or two here - but this is a subjective opinion, and I'm very glad they've been done at all. It was worth the effort guys.

My only complaint, and this is almost enough to lose a star, is the amount of songs on the SACD/CD - 12, not the 16 that were on CD. Was there not enough space (unlikely, I have SACDs that last much longer) or is it some obscure copyright reason concerning the format?

However, the four missing tracks are on the DVD - and remixed to surround sound as well (DTS and Dolby). Why complain? Well, my main Hi-Fi is in my bedroom - along with my computer; it's in effect my office - and the surround system is in the lounge, along with the TV, so playing the SACD/CD disc on my CD player I'd only get the 12 tracks. I have the original CD with 16 tracks so it is not a problem, but a simple question - why the discrepancy?

The disc redeems itself with a very interesting documentary - in widescreen, yaayyy! - which interviews all the main players including Daniel Miller of Mute, an unsung hero in British electronic music development.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Can't Get Enough, 13 Feb 2007
By 
S. Suthers (Portsmouth) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speak And Spell (Audio CD)
I have been a fan of DM for over 25 years now and have most of their albums now. I just love this album. The first one from one of the greatest bands around. Everbody knows and loves "Just Can't Get Enough" and "New Life" - catchy! Another favourite of mine being Tora Tora Tora -great song, great vocals. David Gahan has a remarkable voice and over the years their songs have got darker and deeper so this is a nice album to put on and listen to if you don't want to listen to the usual DM moodiness. Great, fantastic! I'm finding myself singing along in my head to Just Can't Get Enough as I speak!!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mode-tastic, Pop pickers!, 19 May 2006
By 
S. Barber "herrbarber" (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speak and Spell [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
Early 80s synth pop at its very best. Sure, DM fell into drugs and debauchery later on (and produced some of their finest material as a result), but the sheer nostalgia for those of us there at the time shines through on this fine reworking of their debut album.

I don't have 5.1 or DTS, so to me it just sounds so much cleaner without all the Rice Krispy noises in the background. The vocals are clearer and much more pronounced, which emphasises Gahan's nasal twang.

But the coup de grace is the video that completes Disc 2 - Do We Have To Give Up Our Day Jobs? Looking at the spoiled brats signed for millions on the strength of a single rap these days, the deliberations (which, thankfully, include interview footage with Vince Clarke) of whether they could get out of Top Of The Pops in time to get the bus back for the night shift brings that whole era into sharp focus. If Daniel Miller hadn't been so persistent, who knows how long they would have lasted?

Bring on the rest of the back catlogue!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated but still perfect 80's synth pop, 1 Mar 2002
By 
sensoria@tiscali.co.uk (The Peoples Republic of Modesville) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Speak & Spell (Audio CD)
1981 was the year when synth pop really arrived and took over the UK charts. Even today Human League's "Dare" and Soft Cell's "Non Stop Erotic Cabaret" are considered to be classic synth pop albums of the early 80's. DM's "Speak & Spell" should also be included...after all DM have lasted the course much healthier than either Soft Cell or Human League.
Yes, it can sound a little dated now and really bears no resemblance to the DM we know and love today. Much of that is due to the fact that the most of the album was penned by the soon-to-depart Vince Clarke (of Yazoo and Erasure fame).
However, tracks like the singles "New Life" and "Just Can't Get Enough" really show why DM were at the forefront of electronic pop. Upbeat and catchy these were both big hits even if the lyrics were total nonsense that no one apart from Clarke seemed to understand.
The pop vein is continued by the excellent "Boys Say Go", "I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead" (which I first heard on pre-album flexidisc (are these still made?)) and irritating "What's Your Name?" (which allegedly is about the pop pinup of 1981, Adam Ant!!!).
However, 20+ years on it's the moodier tracks which capture the attention. "Puppets" is a lovely and emotional slower moment whilst "Photographic" is still considered a classic piece of DM.
Martin Gore chipped in with "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and schoolboy smirk inducing "Big Muff" but it's fair to say he was to go on to write much better stuff.
All in all, this is an album that sounds and reflects the very forefront of electro-pop and should be in the CD collection of anyone serious about DM or electronic music.
My only grumble is that the CD cover only shows a portion of the original vinyl cover. That swan in a polythene bag mesmerised me as a 13 year old in 1981!!!
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expanded reissue of the Mode's debut album from 1981, 7 Mar 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Speak and Spell [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
Depeche Mode are long overdue a reissue programme of their potent back catalogue - this reissue of debut 'Speak & Spell' is more than welcome and will give way to the rest of their career being reissued as they're 'Touring the Angel' globally. Like the recent Talking Heads' reissues, 'Speak & Spell' comes with two discs - the second a DVD-A disc with 5.1 stereo sound and some extras that exploit the medium. Personally, I'm not that fussed by extras - but some people like them and it adds to just remastering/adding bonus tracks.
'Speak & Spell' was mostly the vision of Vince Clarke - the principal songwriter here who would leave the following year and return with Yazoo, The Assembly & Erasure. 'Speak & Spell' has more in common with Yazoo's work than the later darker work of the Mode - perhaps the missing link between Silicon Teens' 'Music for Parties' and Yazoo's 'Upstairs at Erics'? Daniel Miller (Mute label owner, The Normal/Silicon Teens) is also key as one of the producers - as his own work and the production he did on Soft Cell's 'Memorabilia' demonstrates, he was a great producer of electronic music.
The album opens with the classic second single and first top 20 hit 'New Life' which is simply perfect electronic music and everything Miller had dreamed up with Silicon Teens. 'I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead' (later remixed as 'Deathwish') has a gloomy title but is really a perky pop moment - something Clarke has rarely deviated from! The darker 'Puppets' like tracks such as 'Shout', 'Ice Machine' & 'Photographic' hint at the bleaker side of things the Mode would explore. There's still a fine pop song at the heart of it!
'Boy's Say Go!' would remain a live favourite until the 'Black Celebration' tour and could have been a single - like the 'Just Can't Get Enough'-video (the leather caps boys...) and the dire 'What's Your Name?' it showcases the homoerotic/camp side of the Mode and fits more with Clarke's subsequent career than the pervy-goth-pop Martin Gore favoured. 'Nodisco' is very much of its era and the original first side of the LP concludes on the abysmal 'What's Your Name?' - a song namechecked by Andy Fletcher and Gore on Channel 4 last year as the worst recording the Mode have made. It's hard to disagree - the refrain of "Hey you're such a pretty boy/Hey you're such a pretty boy/Hey you're such a pretty boy/You're so pretty/P-R-E-T-T-Y" is cheeseworthy and as camp as a it gets. It's more Dollar than D.A.F! You can see why the Mode weren't taken seriously - hardly measures up to 'Sex Dwarf', 'I Travel', 'Adrenalin', 'Life Kills', 'Split Second Feeling', 'Messages' or much else their peers were doing. I suppose it could find it's place on a Camp compilation and admirers of Magnetic Fields might locate some appeal!
The second half improves with the dark new romantic pop of 'Photographic', a re-recording of the track that featured on Stevo's 'Some Bizarre' album the previous year (now an extra track on 'Singles 81-85')- again, this would feature in their live-set for several years after and it fits well with later Mode material. Gore's first songwriting contributions are up next - 'Tora!Tora!Tora!' which is bleak poppiness that nods to the film of the same name and the single entendre titled 'Big Muff' - which is surprisingly good and stood out on Rough Trade's 'Electronic I' compilation a few years ago. There is indication that Gore would become a fine songwriter - though he wouldn't really carry an album til 'Some Great Reward' (or maybe even 'Black Celebration' as 'SGR' had one Alan Wilder-composition?)
Gore offers up his first lead vocals on the 'Voices' version of 'Any Second Now' (the bonus tracks feature the instrumental version originally found on the 'Just Can't Get Enough'-single)- which is gorgeous stuff and would be the best Gore lead vocal until 1984's double whammy 'It Doesn't Matter' & 'Somebody.' The album then concludes on the classic top ten single 'Just Can't Get Enough' (back in the current live-set!) and the bonus track 'Dreaming of Me' - the sublime electro pop single that was the Mode's debut release and scraped in the top 60!
The bonus tracks found on the original cd release of 'Speak & Spell' are here - it seems bizarre that 'Ice Machine' & 'Shout' didn't make the album proper - both seem the dark template that Gore ran with on subsequent releases (though I'd say the live version of 'Ice Machine' on the 'Somebody/Blasphemous Rumours' 12" is superior).
'Speak & Spell' is a fine debut, the dud moments are outweighed with the inclusion of gold like 'Dreaming of Me', 'Ice Machine' & 'Shout.' Fans of electronic-pop should love this and it doesn't have any of the political, pervy or goth elements of later Mode releases (I have met people who think this is the best Mode LP! - I'm more a Black Celebration/Masses/Violator soul myself). Next stop - the patchy 'A Broken Frame'...
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the 5.1 mixes are sublime., 30 Dec 2006
By 
Mr. S. R. Dhain "shekhardhain" (leicester) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speak and Spell [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
Ive already written a review for a broken frame and all I can say is...natch.

yet again, with the 5.1 mixes, Ive noticed that some of the synth leads in some songs have had a bit of tinkering- poss use of fixed filter bank or something, and extra bits of delay et al here and there- but the overall effect makes everything sound almost contemporary. Listen to the vast difference in the moog prodigy guitar-esque lead used in photographic. Or the totally different use of seperation technology and mix balancing for every song. Like everything else that ever gets remixed in 5.1, you need a very good set of ears and an ability to not overcook the egg(s), which yet again as daniel miller supervised, thankfulyl meant that these 26 year old songs havent been.

The enclosed documentary and sacd version just put more layers and icing on the cake. Ive got all the remasters in original form and having been a fan of the band since i was 7 year old innocent, all i can say is that marketing glitz aside, even this, their first album, sounds incredible in 5.1.
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Speak and Spell [CD + DVD]
Speak and Spell [CD + DVD] by Depeche Mode (Audio CD - 2006)
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