I remember with maximum clarity when I slipped Black Celebration into the Walkman on the day of it's release way back in early 1986. I had rushed to town during my lunch break from a dead end, soul destroying job, and from the opening refrain of the opening title track, I knew I would love this album. 14 years on and I'm still playing it. It's tough to pick the definitive Mode album, but Black Celebration is on equal terms with later classics Violator and Songs of Faith. As many have said before me, this is the album that defined Depeche and showed them the path forward. It's darker and heavier than the "goth" label given to it. The album also reaps of sexual tension and the banality of normality voiced so clearly on the classic opening track. When I first saw the track listing, I was somewhat alarmed to see the inclusion of Fly on The Windscreen, the superior B-side to the likable It's Called A Heart. My fears however were swiftly laid to rest with a remix that managed to darken the mood of the much loved original even further. Then came the eerie mix into the atmospheric and touching Question of Lust. I kept playing the opening three tracks over and over. I was really convinced that the single Lust would shoot straight in at number 1 (it amazingly faltered at 26 in the UK charts!). A Question of Time sounded a little harsh on that first listen but I soon grew to adore it. The energy and power of the lead synth's on this track is a credit to the pioneering recording techniques used by Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones. Never had Depeche sounded so good. Here Is The House was another fine electro tune with a superb bassline. Mode always seem to find the perfect synth sounds without ever relying on the built in pre-sets that so many artist's fall back on. The group and producers spent many hours wandering around abondoned industrial sites, sampling anything they could hit. All this extra invention and effort in creating sounds was well worth the man hours. Black Celebration still sounds fantastic on headphones. World Full Of Nothing and Dressed In Black would be highlights on any album. So rich in texture, dark and unsettling. All Mode albums finish with a hidden ace and Black Celebration provides New Dress with it's unforgettable drum pattern and great melody. The CD comes with some bonus tracks that were unlisted on the UK release that includes the oddly cheerful But Not Tonight that was more suited to A Broken Frame. It is however an essential Mode track. Shame that Flood's excellent Highland Mix of Stripped wasn't included instead. That aside, Black Celebration easily reaches my own personal top ten along with Propaganda's Secret Wish, Human League's Dare & NIN's Pretty Hate Machine. And it's true...women look so good in black!
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