Nov 062020

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10. The Dixie Hummingbirds – Personal Jesus

“Personal Jesus” gets a gospel groove in this cover. A mix of driving bass and spunky synth come together to support the deep lead vocal and the background singers’ crooning. The song starts out rather monotone like the original, but after the first of many synth solos, variation increases. The lead singer gets more and more earnest as the song goes on, urging us like any heartfelt preacher would to “reach out and touch faith.” – Sara Stoudt

9. Greg Laswell ft. Molly Jenson – Never Let Me Down Again

One of the many highlights on Greg Laswell’s 2019 album Covers II, “Never Let Me Down Again” teams the California singer-songwriter whose songs were used constantly in Grey’s Anatomy with Molly Jenson, another San Diego-born songwriter. Like Duncan Sheik (#18), it finds away to bring Depeche Mode to a more Starbucks-y style without stripping the song of its underlying darkness. – Ray Padgett

8. Tori Amos – Enjoy the Silence

Tori Amos’s “Enjoy the Silence” is a sparse one with a darker tinge. The dissonance in the opening lines “words like violence / break the silence” of this cover contrast heavily with the upbeat opening of the original. Simple, piano chords are the only background instrumentation, and they punctuate Amos’s words in the verses with a little drama. The piano line becomes a little more fluid yet still understated in the choruses. The harmonies that creep in add to the overall haunting mood. – Sara Stoudt

7. Placebo – I Feel You

Like so many devotees of the group, English rock band Placebo related to Depeche Mode as outsiders, being out of step with what co-founder Stefan Olsdal called the “straight lads from the pub” culture of the UK music scene in the late ’90s, in the wake of Oasis and Britpop. Gahan and the boys had forged their own path of purist electronic music combined with sleazy tunes and a provocative look (particularly around Gore’s eyeliner and occasional bondage gear). Placebo similarly adopted an androgynous image and specialized in glammy songs about sex and bisexual identity, most famously “Nancy Boy” and their 1998 US hit “Pure Morning.” It seemed only right, therefore, that they should deliver a blinding cover of Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You” from 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion.

With the nasally voiced Brian Molko at the helm, Placebo proved more than capable of reinterpeting Gore’s song of sexual/spiritual ecstacy, which they originally released on a fan-club-only cassette. There’s certainly no shortage of passion in Molko’s occasionally broken delivery, nor in the way the band exploit the inspired guitar riff to the max, and transform the track into a six-minute epic. Drums pound hard, gospelly backing vocals enter the fray, and swirling synth sounds fade in and out, all of which escalate on the impressive wigout of an outro.- Adam Mason

6. Röyksopp – Ice Machine

Depeche Mode are the sort of band that finds their every track amassing its own following. “Ice Machine” is a good example – it’s the B-side to their first single, backing “Dreaming of Me.” Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland, barely in their teens, took the time to learn it in salute to one of their musical heroes. Two decades and change later, they had gained much critical and commercial success as Röyksopp, and they returned to the song, this time bringing Suzanne Sundfør to the microphone. Their appreciation – and their own talent – still shines through. – Patrick Robbins

5. love+war – Policy of Truth

The hard-to-Google trio love+war’s “Go Your Own Way” appeared on our Best Covers of 2017 list, and “Policy of Truth” comes off that same covers album, Nine Lives. They bring a side of soul to this grooving slow-burn. It echoes British indie-soul acts like Jack Garratt and James Vincent McMorrow – if they’d recorded at Muscle Shoals. – Jane Callaway

4. The Smashing Pumpkins – Never Let Me Down Again

“I particularly like the Smashing Pumpkins version of ‘Never Let Me Down,'” Dave Gahan said in an interview about the aforementioned 1998 Depeche tribute album For the Masses. “[I]t’s kind of like the opposite of what you’d expect the Pumpkins to do with it. I actually like their version a lot better than ours.” Indeed, while there’s still a hint of Billy Corgan’s trademark whimper/howl/whimper, the song gets a measured guitar treatment, holding onto its reins in a way that gives a sense of the power behind the quiet, ready to be unleashed. The song was actually kind of a ringer for the album – it had been a B-side four years earlier – and when critics went after the album, they took care to note that at least the Pumpkins had made the effort to do something different. They also did something very, very good. – Patrick Robbins

3. Bat for Lashes – Strangelove

On her sublime Two Suns concept album of 2009, Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) was most obviously in debt to the theatricality of Kate Bush and the mysticism of Stevie Nicks, but the dark majesty of Depeche Mode also played a role. She subsequently acknowledged the influence of the synthpop band with her 2011 cover of “Strangelove.” Though she made it ostensibly to promote a new aftershave by Gucci, she did a fantastic job. She had the voice — powerful, sexy and scary — to match Gahan in terms of expressing the moral degeneracy of someone continuously unfaithful in a relationship: “I give in to sin / Because you have to make this life livable.” She also had the skills to put an eerie twist on that striking keyboard riff, by surrounding it with resonating harpsichord effects. The end product must have won the approval of the originators themselves, because Kahn was soon supporting them on their US tour of 2013. – Adam Mason

2. Nada Surf – Enjoy the Silence

“Enjoy the Silence” is the most-covered Depeche Mode song, and it’s not even close. It’s been so often covered we could have done this entire list of “Enjoy the Silence” covers and never hit a dud. But best of all comes from the indie-rock band Nada Surf. Truth be told, I hadn’t paid much attention to this cover when it first came out in 2010, and my expectations weren’t high. “Long-running indie rock covers the most obvious Depeche Mode song” doesn’t immediately shout greatness. But they achieve if by reimagining the song from the ground up.

The power-pop jangle works wonderfully, but even better is their tweaking of the song’s fundamental rhythms – stretching out a line here, adding a few new beats there. The entire chorus emphasizes different syllables – what seems like a minor choice on paper, but it makes a huge difference. When I write that something seems like an entirely new song, that usually means it’s unrecognizable. That’s not the case here; you’d catch what this was immediately. Yet they still make it so immediately distinctive, you could imagine some other artist covering this version. – Ray Padgett

1. Johnny Cash – Personal Jesus

The opening guitar riff is unmistakeable; as soon as Johnny Cash’s version of “Personal Jesus” starts, you recognize the song. It becomes quickly apparent, though, that there’s a different aura to this cover. The jangling piano and the insistent, buzzing slide guitar have an alt-country feeling, maybe something out of some Old West saloon. And that’s before Cash sings.

As soon as he does, this song is his song, as with most of the covers he did. When Cash sings here, near the end of his career, his iconic voice quavers but it’s clear and uplifting. Gone is the reverb and echo from the original track. Cash’s voice and words are up front, clean, and high in the mix. The meaning of the song changes and all of a sudden we are be listening to a gospel song rather than a Depeche Mode cover. Cash wrings every bit of emotion out of the intriguing lyrics. It’s the best Depeche Mode cover and one of the greatest covers Johnny Cash ever did, a transcendent and beautifully constructed song. – Mike Misch

Check out more installments in our monthly ‘Best Covers Ever’ series, including The Cure, Elton John, Radiohead, and Neil Young.

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  11 Responses to “The Best Depeche Mode Covers Ever”

Comments (11)
  1. These are the best DM covers:

    Lady Fanny – Never Let Me Down Again
    Friendly Fires – Strangelove
    Penelope Austin – Heaven
    World In My Eyes – Lotte Kestner
    Groove Messangers – I Feel You
    Comatose – Comatose (Comatose Version)
    Herra Terra – Enjoy the Silence
    Agente Naranja – A Pain That I’m Used To
    Blasphemous Rumours
    Cranial Screwtop – New Life
    Eyes Lips Eyes – Halo
    CJ – Policy of truth
    Stevie Ann – Personal Jesus
    Big Nurse – Lie to me
    3 Minute Solution – Personal Jesus
    Charlotte Martin – Judas
    Official Version – Now This Is Fun
    Astyplaz – Walking In My Shoes
    Challenger In Pieces – Personal_Jesus
    Diefenbach – Policy Of Truth
    Gotye – Just Can’t Get Enough (Mothloop Mix)
    Kristy Thirsk – Behind The Wheel
    Marie Frank – It’s No Good
    Moi Caprice – Any Second Now
    Track72 Feat Mark Linn – Monument
    Janita – Enjoy the Silence
    Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Dream On
    Sofian – People Are People

  2. one more:

    Twintapes – Blasphemous Rumours

  3. Monster Magnet-black celebration, super version.

  4. And Marsheaux???

    Marsheaux – My Secret Garden

  5. Vader – I feel you

  6. This list is incomplete without representation from the recently re-released classic, STRANGE LOVE: PM Does DM.

    They’re all terrific but pat’s version of Policy of Truth is my favorite of the record. I think I even prefer it to the original.

  7. Former Human Beings : It’s No Good

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