By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
DEPECHE MODE Exciter (Mute/Reprise)
Depeche Mode’s mid-’90s traffic-stopping stardom crept up on us, and before anyone could really savor it, the backlash began — singer Dave Gahan’s drug and marital problems, culminating in attempted suicide, reported in every dismal detail. While all this extracurricular activity blunted the band commercially, their tribulations duly delivered arresting art: 1997’s bleak but consistent Ultra and now the entrancing and considerably more optimistic Exciter.Listen to Depeche Mode: Real Audio Format Dream On Freelove
Once eschewing traditional instrumentation, the Mode have thawed with time, and recent releases have been warmed with smatterings of strings among the stark electronica. The beauty of D.M.’s approach is that they use these tools only when they truly have something to say with them, and the resulting restraint is stunning. Exciter jumps from the gate with the achingly exquisite intro to “Dream On,” the tiniest of loops and bass blips beneath a melancholy acoustic guitar, a snapshot of D.M. past and present. Arguably their most endearing quality is that Depeche Mode, for all their riches and sonic opulence, have retained the wide-eyed songwriting style spawned as teenage bedroom synth-pop pioneers. Twenty years later, they continue to communicate through fresh-faced, uncomplicated melodies and deceptively simple lyrics that might come over as merely cute if they weren’t sung so sincerely. Gahan can deliver a potentially hackneyed hook like “No hidden catch/no strings attached” (“Freelove”) and make it sound like life or death. No longer teetering on the ledge, he still takes lingering looks into the abyss and describes the view with subtlety and genuine distress. D.M. are here to remind us what desolate soundscapes and obsessive lyrics really sound like; shunning escapist shock-rock, Gahan sings of everyday dark gods, everyman’s demons, while head honcho Martin Gore bursts techno bubbles around him.
Mellow, dramatic and bathed in atmosphere, Exciter is the sound of a band at the height of its powers. Depeche Mode may have become an institution, complete with tribute albums and imitators, and they’ve undoubtedly had a huge influence on contemporary radio fodder from Moby to Manson, but they deserve respect for what they’re doing, not for what they did first. (Paul Rogers)
DJ SMASH Phonography: A Blue Note Mix (Blue Note)Listen to DJ Smash: Real Audio Format Whatever Happened to Gus Rose Rouge
In the red, hot and blue-noted mix of Phonography, DJ Smash follows the jazz bloodline that interrelates the divergent tribes of urban dance music, and flows through the passageways that connect today’s underground with black American music’s very first. The material is taken from the more contemporary crates of the 63-year-old jazz label Blue Note Records: 14 tracks in all, each remixed by the likes of DJ Spinna, Joe Claussell, Todd Terry and a host of others.
Smash does a couple of his own remixes on the album, but his more essential presence lies in the smooth, smart arrangement of his hard-to-find track selections. He begins on the hip-hop down-low, with Guru informing the mic on Medeski Martin & Wood’s “Whatever Happened to Gus” and via Ronny Jordan’s “A Brighter Day” featuring Mos Def, before acknowledging the breakbeat era with Kingsize’s remix of Tim Hagans’ “Are You Threatening Me?” After dropping a few Afrobeat rhythms, Smash then takes you on a full body-and-soul flight through the global scene of house, which includes Blaze’s upswing remix of St. Germain’s already essential jazz-house hybrid “Rose Rouge.”
Yet even after repeated listening, the album never quite prepares you for its most remarkable moment of discovery, a remake of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by Bob Belden, remixed by the Amalgamation of Sounds. Add some hip-hop drumbeats, a clarinet in the wings and the soul-tender voice of Jhelisa, and what once sounded like a flower-power pep talk for a dour-faced kid suddenly takes hold of you as an inner-city cry, sung by a woman looking out from her fire escape and wondering if her younger brother will ever return home. It’s ultimately because of the deliberate way Jhelisa sings the curiously extracted line “go out and get her”; in the cultural remix of our generation, you could almost swear that she was saying, “Go out and get help.” (Tommy Nguyen)
NICK GILDER The Best of Nick Gilder: Hot Child in the City (Razor & Tie)
Well, it’s about damn time. The missing link between the Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard and Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight, Nick Gilder specialized in hard-candy pop loaded with plenty of glitter-rock decadence and new-wave hooks. The London-born front man of Canadian glamsters Sweeney Todd (who had the dubious distinction of giving Bryan Adams his first break), Gilder moved to L.A. in 1976 with Sweeney Todd guitarist James McCulloch. Despite often facing unfriendly audiences — I was too young to get into L.A. clubs back then, but several friends and colleagues remember him being bottled off the stage at the Starwood and the Whisky — Gilder scored a deal with Chrysalis, eventually repaying the label’s faith with 1978’s “Hot Child in the City,” Chrysalis’ first-ever No. 1 single. Now, 23 years later, he finally gets a greatest-hits CD.