Depeche Mode

Spirit – Depeche Mode

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 7/10

I’ve always been impressed with how solid Depeche Mode’s later era albums are. Most bands still going over 30 years lose that something that made them special and start churning out mediocre material. While none of Mode’s later albums hit me like their early stuff, they’re still pretty impressive. So I was pretty psyched when they announced Spirit. When I got my hands on it, I found another solid record that finds the band turning their gaze outward instead of in. The band offers a damning commentary on what’s going on in the world. This isn’t the first time they’ve done it; look at “People Are People,” but it’s their most politically charged effort. Though their commentary is often blistering, it’s often too much and doesn’t make for a wholly satisfying album.

The album opens with the rousing “Going Backwards,” one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s booming opening making you think of an army marching in the field sets up the dark mood of the song. The lyrics find Dave Gahan calling out our society and how despite all our progress, we keep moving backwards: “We are not there yet/We have not evolved/We have no respect/We have lost control.” It’s eerily appropriate to what’s happening now with political tensions running high and the rights of people being threatened. Though it’s not an in-your-face song, there’s still a lot of anger and frustration channeling through the song. They’re clearly fed up with what’s going on and this can speak to those who feel the same. It’s a blistering track that’ll get your fist pumping for change by the end of it. Its political nature sets the tone for most of what’s to come.

I was never really sold on lead single “Where’s the Revolution?” Though I really like the dark, futuristic synth music, this song doesn’t thrill me or get me going like their other material. It has a well-meaning message: get off your ass, stop complaining, and make a change. Still, it never really got me excited for the album. And the bridge where they repeat “The train is coming/get on board/the engine’s humming” made me roll my eyes. They couldn’t be serious with that part, right? I get the metaphor they’re going for, but it’s too on the nose and comes off as awkward. Though it’s not my favorite, I do appreciate the song for its lyrics like “Who’s making your decisions/you or your religion” that, again, reflects what’ we’ve been going through on a daily basis.

According to Gore, most of the album was written over the course of two years, yet it sounds like it was written for the Trump take over. While the commentary they offer is appreciated, it does get tiring. The band has touched on political issues in the past with songs like “People Are People” and “Everything Counts,” but they’ve never done it to the extent they do it here. Just because they usually don’t make political statements in their songs doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ever do it, but the way the band goes about it isn’t necessarily subtle. The biting track “Scum” finds the band attacking someone and begging them to “pull the trigger” that instantly makes you think of Trump. It’s one of the more memorable tracks even though some parts are disjointed, which can be off-putting. The slow burning “The Worst Crime” looks at what’s happening and blames it all on misinformation and stupidity that we’re all to blame. These songs aren’t bad, but after repeated listens you get tired. After a while you think we get it, we’re fucked. Can we dance now?

Luckily, not everything is focused on the political climate of the world. Things properly pick up with the infectious “You Move.” The song hooks you instantly with its heavy groove and sexy vibe. The lyrics fit more in tune with past Depeche Mode topics: unbridled lust, love, and temptation. The track is one of the few that gets you excited and makes you want to dance. Sounding like a leftover from Delta Machine, “So Much Love to Give” gives the album a much needed energy boost. The upbeat synth and the memorable hook makes it a fun diversion from the blackness the album is steeped in. Providing a bit of optimism, lyrics like “You can forsake me/try to break me/But you can’t shake me/no” shows it’s not the end yet; we still have a fighting chance. “Poison Heart” isn’t all that upbeat, but it’s another notable cut from the record. It lures you in with its stuttering, Blues inspired riff and opens with Gahan’s throaty vocals singing “You have poison in your heart/I’m sure of it.” A track about a nasty relationship coming to an end, it’s nothing spectacular, but it stands out from the other heavy tracks.

Honestly, there isn’t a song I outright hate on the album. Sadly, most of them aren’t that notable or are just a drag. “Poorman” has a harrowing opening filled with doom laden music and eerie harmonies of “Heeeey” that sound like ghostly apparitions. It’s another politically charged song about corporations only looking out for themselves, which we pretty much know. It’s not bad, but doesn’t really add much to the album. “Cover Me” is another slow song with somber music and gloomy lyrics about not reaching that other life. It actually makes me think of the end of the world. The highlight here is the dreamy, atmospheric music that gets an extended play near the end. Again, not terrible but nothing stellar. “Eternal” and “Fail” are both Gore solo spots that are decent, but again, nothing amazing. The former has a similar vibe to “I Want You Now” with Gore expressing his love, while sounding sinister and diabolic. The latter is another song damning where our society is and condemning all of us ending the album on a depressing note.

So is the album as bad as some critics said? Not really, but it’s not as great as some are claiming either. I appreciate the band’s efforts to comment what’s going on in the world. Some of the lyrics on those songs are poignant and thoughtful.  That being said, at times it does feel like you’re being bashed in the head with these messages. I applaud the band for going out of their comfort zone and showing that they’re willing to try different things. That’s a least a plus for this album. But it can be a bit tiring at times, which could be how they’re presented as slow, brooding tracks that drag on and on. It leaves you feeling hopeless at times. Putting political messages aside, most of the songs don’t pack the same punch and excitement of their other material. Even the tracks on their last album were more exciting. There are a handful of memorable tracks, but most of them don’t hit that sweet Mode spot even though they’re well meaning. Many of the songs I can’t picture myself listening to again outside of the record. Like many of their modern records, it’s solid and has some great moments. But does it live up to expectations? Not really.

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Songs of Faith and Devotion – Depeche Mode

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 8/10

If you’ve been following the blog long enough, you know I’ve had a bad relationship with this album. Although it was a critically acclaimed follow up to Violator, I could never get into it. After repeated listens I thought it was boring, save for a handful of songs. While looking through my albums, I came across this one and thought maybe I was being too harsh. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it at the time. It did take me years to fully appreciate albums like The Cure’s Pornography. So I decided to give it one more and shot. Turns out I was wrong about this record.

What initially turned me off to this album was how it didn’t sound like the Depeche Mode I was used to. Where was the thrilling synth? Where were the danceable, yet sexy songs? They don’t completely abandon their electronic side, but they favor a rock oriented sound here. This is best heard on the opening track “I Feel You.” It’s the most straightforward rock song in their catalog. It has this great, sexy bluesy riff that wails while Dave Gahan coos “I feeeeeeeeel you/your sun it shines.” The music keeps building getting more intricate as the song goes on. Even though it’s pretty sensual, it still shows a harsher direction not previously found in their music.

I liked “Walking In my Shoes,” which starts with a jangly piano leading to hushed electronic sounding beats. Similar to the previous song, the music here sets up a darker landscape for the album. That says a lot for a band whose music is peppered with grim themes. This song also starts the numerous religious references on the album, which return on the next track “Condemnation.” I’m still not crazy about this song. I can appreciate it, especially since it sounds more like a gospel track, which was unique for the band at the time. It also boasts a great vocal performance from Gahan who sounds anguished and near tears while singing. There’s a lot of heartache and emotion behind it, which can be said for all the songs here. While I like the idea, I just don’t like the style.

What I found most interesting about the album is how morose and hopeless it sounds. Depeche Mode has never been shy with exploring dark feelings, but there’s usually some upbeat song to break up the mood. “Rush” is the closest it gets to something upbeat and danceable on this record. The rest of the tracks seem mired in misery. Even when addressing topics like love and needing someone else it sounds desperate, such as on “One Caress,” an excellent solo moment from Martin Gore. When listening to this album, you feel this sense of impending doom.

This morose mood continues on tracks “Higher Love” and “Mercy In You” where Gahan sounds like a vampire wanting to feed on the mercy in someone. Another stand out track, “In Your Room” is pretty sensual thanks to the intricate, lush music, but it still has dark connotations with references to slaves and being held captive by a lover. Though it’s more rock oriented, like most of the songs here, the sexy mood, intricate music, and Gahan’s powerful vocals make this a classic Depeche Mode track. It’s one I’ve always enjoyed from the album.

Judas” is notable for beginning with bagpipes to set a heavenly atmosphere. Gore’s on vocals here, so as usual, he has a way of making things sound creepy even if it’s not intentional. But for some reason, the song doesn’t hit the sweet spot like other Gore tracks. “One Caress,” which features his on vocals is actually the better of the two ballads. It begins with a riff that sounds like the opening of “Never Tear Us Apart.” This song stands out for the string composition. It adds this stark, dramatic vibe to the music. Though the song is about how good the touch of a loved one is, it still sounds unsettling with the music growing more and more intense. He’s sounds so desperate for it, it’s like he’s on edge and he’ll do anything to get that one caress. It’s a similar eerie vibe that worked for “I Want You Now.”

Unlike most of their past releases, this one is really slow, cathartic, and dark. Their music has always been moody and gloomy, but this one is downright heartbreaking. Considering the inner turmoil of the band and Gahan’s heroin problem, it makes sense why so many of the songs are gut wrenching. Some of the songs seem like they’re about Gahan. “Get Right With Me” starts out dark and creepy, but throws listeners for a loop with a random record scratch. It’s kind of off putting since it doesn’t fit the song, but it doesn’t last very long. The lyrics seem to talk about someone laying down what it’s going to take to get back in someone’s good graces: “Friends, if you’ve lost your way/ you will find it again.” This could be a reference to Gahan losing his way via drugs and Gore remaining hopeful he’ll get clean.It was a tough album to make according to the band and it shows in these songs.

So, do I still hate this album? No, now I realize I wrong about it. It’s not boring and dull. While it’s still not my favorite, I realize it’s a solid, introspective entry in their catalog. The songs may be different with their rock oriented sound and heavier vibe, but they remain gripping, thoughtful, and well-crafted like their previous efforts. Even if all the songs didn’t catch my attention the overall depressing mood of the record did make me reflect on what the band was going through at the time. With the sonic shifts and darker themes, it’s one of those albums that needs time for some to fully appreciate it. And I’m glad I can view the album differently. I don’t think I can say the same for Venus Doom.

Playlist: Give ’em the remix

Remixes can be tricky to handle. In the wrong hands it can sound nothing like the source material it’ll put off listeners. Other times it sounds too much like the original making it pointless. But when done just right, a remix can turn a great song into an even better one. Whether it speeds things up to make it a dance hit or slows things down to place it in a new genre, there are a lot of remixes out there way too many to gather in this list. So this month’s playlist takes a look at some of my favorite remixes.

“19-2000” (Soulchild Remix) – Gorillaz

This is a remix of the Gorillaz’ second single and it’s much better than the original. Known for its simple hook of “got the cool shoe shine,” the version from the band’s debut album was very slow featuring sleepy music, lush beats, and very light percussion. The song got most exciting during the aforementioned hook. It’s not bad, but it sounds like the band are on the verge of drifting off while singing. But this remix by Soulchild wakes up the song, turning it into something fun, bouncy, and energetic. You can even hear bits of “The Humpty Dance” in the mix. Everything about it outshines the original and turns it into something you can’t stop dancing to.

“Heartbreaker (Remix)” – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” was already a success reaching the top spot on several charts. But the song blew up more when she dropped the remix in 1999. Featuring DJ Clue, Da Brat, and Missy Elliot this remix turns the Carey pop hit into an R&B/hip hop infused jam. Using a sample from Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If Homies Can’t Have None)” the song is catchier than before with Carey singing even more breathless than she did in the original. It’s sleek and just the right amount of funky making it one hundred times cooler than original. The song was so successful Carey continued doing remixes for singles, like “Loverboy,” but it didn’t match the success of this one.

“Ignition (Remix)” – R. Kelly

I’ve never been a fan of R. Kelly, but even I have to admit this song is too damn catchy to hate. The song became so popular, charting at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, that it’s hard to remember what the original sounded like. Whereas the original was a slowjam meant to put someone in the mood, this one is all about partying. What really makes the song is irresistible hook. It’s one of those songs where you’ll know all the words after only hearing it three times. Apparently, the original version of the song was going to be on his then upcoming album Loveland, but the album was leaked causing R. Kelly to rewrite and remix most of the album and turn it into The Chocolate Factory. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

“The Way I Am (Remix)” – Eminem Feat. Marilyn Manson

In the late 90s/early 00s the two biggest controversial figures in music were Eminem and Marilyn Manson. Surprisingly, the two formed a friendship with Manson appearing at the rapper’s concerts and even making a cameo in the original “The Way I Am” video. This remix brings the world of rap and rock together. Eminem spits rhymes over the crunchy guitars and intense rock music taken straight from a Manson song. The music perfectly captures Manson’s creepy essence. To make things even better Manson sings the hook in his gravely voice. He also provides some eerie moans throughout the track. It’s a stellar remix that makes you wish the two continue working together. Maybe on the next album? We can only hope.

“Rock With You (Frankie Knuckles Favorite Club Mix)” – Michael Jackson

This mix takes this Michael Jackson hit and turns it into something you can actually dance to. Frankie Kunckles keeps the smooth R&B vibe of the original for the most part. He layers glistening pianos, some synth, and upbeat percussion on top of the track to get you grooving. There are even some further vocal arrangements from Jackson that aren’t found in the original. Clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s definitely something made with the club scene in mind, but the remix is so good you won’t find a problem jamming out to it in your house. The remix is actually quite popular and is often the basis of many Michael Jackson mash ups, which also prove to be great fun.

“Rope (Deadmau5 Mix)” – Foo Fighters

Deadmau5 flips this song on its head switching it from hard rock to an electronica dance hit. It’s not just a DJ adding some synths and bleeps over the Foo Fighters hit. He turns it into a completely different song only keeping Dave Grohl’s vocals in tact. It sounds like an unlikely pairing, but it works so well, breathing new life into this Foo Fighters song. With dripping bleeps, a pulsing beat, and wild music Deadmau5 makes the song his own. The two even joined forces to perform the track on the 54th Grammy Awards.

“More Human Than Human (Meet Bambi in the King’s Harem Mix)” – White Zombie

Rob Zombie never shies away from remixing his biggest hits, but this is the strongest remix to date. “More Human Than Human” was already a beast of a song, but this version makes it a hundred times creepier. The music is grittier, sounding like a record got scratched in the mix during the intense opening and Zombie’s vocals are distorted to sound more robotic and inhuman, which is a perfect fit for the song. The whining guitar riff of the original is still in tact, but the rest of the music is heavy, dirty electronic music that gets you groovin’. This does everything a good remix is supposed to do: keep elements of the original intact, but build on to make it better.

“No, No, No Pt.2” feat Wyclef Jean – Destiny’s Child

Before “Survivor” and “Say My Name” this was most people’s introduction to Destiny’s Child and Beyonce. When the song dropped in 1998, it received massive radio airplay and eventually reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. But what about part one? The first version of the song, which was their debut single, is a slow R&B track that’s more sensual in nature. Think of it as a song to get busy to. Though it was moderately successful, it wasn’t until Wyclef Jean added an upbeat hip hop flavor and sped up the song that it became a hit. Listening to them both today, this version is still better than the original.

“Strangelove (Tim Simenon, Mark Saunders Remix)” – Depeche Mode

There are various remixes of this Depeche Mode single, but this one is among the best. This mix takes the mid-tempo song and turns it into a club hit. The music is more energetic and fast paced with additional synth and electronica elements added to the mix. There’s even a bit of a tribal vibe when the percussion kicks up. But one of the coolest things about the song is how there’s a nod to their song “People Are People.” It’s brief, but very satisfying for all Mode fans. It’s a great remix that plays around with the classic track, but still keeps everything that made it so good in the first place in tact.

“I”m Real” (Murder Remix) – Jennifer Lopez ft. Ja-Rule

Remember that time during the 2000s when Ja-Rule was popular and was featured in what felt like every song? Before he disappeared off the map, he joined forces with J.Lo for this slick remix of her pop single “I’m Real.” Whereas the original was a generic dance song with rapid beats and a forgettable chorus, this mix slows things down making way for a cool R&B/Hip Hop groove. Even though Ja-Rule’s singing is appalling, it doesn’t ruin the song. The track is from her remix album J to tha L-O! The Remixes and is actually the third best selling remix album of all time. The album also spawned successful singles “I’m Gonna Be All Right” and “Ain’t it Funny.”

“Happiness in Slavery (remix)” – Trent Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K.

Trent Reznor is no stranger to remixes. Not only has he done them for other artists, but he leaves his music in the hands of others spawning several remix albums based off his studio releases. There are two different remixes of “Happiness in Slavery” on the Fixed EP, but this one is the best. It keeps very little from the original track aside from a bit of the guitar riff and Reznor screaming “Slavery!” in the background. Otherwise, the song is completely new and still just as terrifying. Though it’s more gritty and electronic centered than the aggressive original, this version still manages to be terrifying with the intense mechanical music and various screams heard in the background. There are very little lyrics, just a brutal continuation of this awesome NIN track.

“Tourniquet (Prosthetic Dance Mix)” – Marilyn Manson

This version of Marilyn Manson’s “Tourniquet” is very much in tune with the original even opening with the main scratchy riff from the original. This version keeps the same eerie vibe from the original, but amps it up with intense percussion and what sounds like gritty electronic music. Somehow it slows things down even more than the original making it a more drugged out experience. But what’s most notable about this remix is the new vocal take from Manson. He doesn’t unleash his scream on this version and lets his playful, growling vocals take over. It’s definitely the highlight of the forgettable Remix & Repent EP.

Which remix is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Speak & Spell – Depeche Mode

Release Year: 1981

Rating: 6.5/10

Every band has a black sheep in their catalog, that one album they don’t want to talk about. For Depeche Mode, it’s their very first. With songs written by former DM member Vince Clarke, this record doesn’t display the moody and dark band we know today. The content is more synthpop and makes them sound like any new wave band during the time. Since its release the band has dismissed the LP and said it’s their least favorite, but is it really that bad?

Depeche Mode are known for their introspective lyrics, dark synth, and songs that talk about taboo subjects. None of that is on this album. This one is sugary sweet like so much pop music during the 80s. You hear this right off the bat with the opening track “New Life,” which is catchy, but cheesy. There’s nothing about it to make it stand out from other new wave songs from this period. Despite this, it is really catchy mainly because the synth and the hook are so repetitive. You hear it and can’t help but dance. It’s not bad, but definitely not their best. The next track “I Sometimes Wish I Were Dead” isn’t as morbid as it sounds. The synth is really playful and wonky, but there isn’t anything else notable about the song. It’s not bad, but not very memorable.

Nodisco” finally sees a change in the synth. Rather than sounding really light and sweet, it has a dark undertone making it a bit more interesting. It’s still really cheesy, especially since it sounds like a rejected disco tune. The lyrics are super corny with the hook being “Move me disco/Baby don’t you let go.” It’s as if Vince Clarke didn’t know what else to write about and this is what he ended up with. “What’s Your Name” has been called the band’s least favorite song by both Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher. And once you hear the light poppy synth that’s bouncy, but way too sugary, you’ll agree with them. It’s this weird 50’s doo wop drenched in generic synth, but it’s the lyrics that’ll leave you scratching your head. The chorus is Dave Gahan repeating “Hey, you’re such a pretty boy/you’re so pretty.” And this isn’t the only time sexualized lyrics towards guys are used. They’re also found on “Boys Say Go!” No wonder so many people thought they were gay for years.

There are a few songs that are listenable and seem most like current Depeche Mode. “Tora! Tora! Tora!” written by Martin Gore, is one of the best tracks on the LP. It’s one of those things where you can’t explain why it’s so catchy. The music is stark, disjointed, and again has darker vibe than the rest of the songs here. Gahan plays with his vocals on this track where he emphasizes certain words. By this point he hasn’t gotten down his vocal style, but it’s at least better than what we’ve heard so far. Another good song is “Any Second Now” which features Gore on vocals. It’s your standard slow track with his soft vocals and dreamy music. Both of these tracks are as close to classic DM you’re gonna get on this album.

The record closes with the notable track “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Of course this is the best song on the album. The synth rings out so wonderfully and sounds so fucking happy it puts a smile on your face. Compared to their later songs it’s kind of cheesy (“Just like a rainbow/you know you set me free”), but it puts you in a good mood. And it has to be their catchiest song in their catalog. The reason it works so well is because there’s actual variation of the music. It’s very bubbly and energetic and during the bridge these bright horns come blaring in for a brief second, but it sounds so good you want more.

The album isn’t horrible, but it probably is the worst in their catalog. A lot of it is standard synth pop that’s repetitive and gets dull really fast. There are a few songs that stand out and even have a hint of later Depeche Mode, but most of them are forgettable. If anything it gives listeners an idea of what the band would’ve been like if Clarke would’ve stuck around. It’s hard to not compare it to their later stuff, but even looking at it as a new wave album, it’s still not that great. Let’s be thankful Martin Gore took over songwriting duties from then on.

Playlist: On The Flip Side

The b-side can be a wonderful thing. Though some of the results are a little harrowing, often times it’s the flip side is more successful than the single. Something about not having the pressure of making a hit single or pleasing radio stations invites artists to experiment and lets loose, which leaves us with some amazing songs.  There was no way I could cover all of the best or notable b-sides in this playlist, so these are just a handful of tracks from some of my favorite artists. So sit back, push play, and get lost in the whimsical world of the b-side.

“Dangerous” – Depeche Mode

This b-side to the already steamy “Personal Jesus” is one of the band’s sexiest songs. It doesn’t have anything to do with the content, rather it’s all about the sound. The hard electro beat and Dave Gahan’s smooth baritone vocals just makes the whole thing sound sexy as hell. Something about it puts a twist in your spine and gives you goosebumps. It even sounds a bit dangerous, especially with the slinking rhythm. In terms of style, the song has the same dark, cold vibe that took over the Violator album. Most would say “Happiest Girl” is the band’s best b-side and while it is good, it’s this gem that’s always been my favorite.

“10:15 Saturday Night” – The Cure

The Cure is one of those bands with a ton of amazing b-sides. I actually made a list of ten of my favorites a while ago. Since that list has all my favorites, here’s another stellar b-side from the band I didn’t talk about. This song features the unmistakable cry of Robert Smith and the “drip, drip, drip” line that pounds into your head. It was this song that convinced Chris Parry to sign the band to his newly formed label Fiction. And though it was the b-side to “Killing an Arab” you could still find it on their debut album. Still, you gotta give credit to the track that started the long and wonderful history of The Cure.

“Pink Ego Box” – Muse

Muse is another band with an insane amount of great b-sides, which is why I also made a list of favorites. While this b-side to “Muscle Museum” didn’t make the cut, it’s still one of their better tracks. It has a pretty simple beat and guitar riff while a young Matt Bellamy wails on about online relationships. The song doesn’t get intense until the end when the rough guitars start screaming along with Bellamy who yells “You turn me on” repeatedly. There’s actually an earlier version of this song  under the name “Instant Messenger” that had an AOL clip saying “You’ve got post.” It had to be removed for copyright reasons, so the band renamed the song. The second title is way more intriguing anyway.

“Into the Groove” – Madonna

This song was originally the b-side to the Madonna single “Angel.” Only later when it was featured on the soundtrack to her film Desperately Seeking Susan was it released as a stand alone single. Either way this is still one of Madonna’s best songs. It celebrates and emulates the club scene she was so fond of in her early years. With the high energy and the blazing synth, you can’t help but get up and dance whenever it comes on. It’s become a fan favorite over the years and is a track Madonna rarely leaves out of her setlist. The song has been remixed, reworked, and reimagined since it was first released, but nothing beats the original that helped make Madonna a megastar.

“Get Down Make Love” – Nine Inch Nails

There are more remixes than b-sides in the NIN catalog, but during the Pretty Hate Machine era, Trent Reznor and company did an industrial cover of this Queen song for the b-side of “Sin.” Whereas the original tries to be sensual and sexy, this version is nothing but raw, harsh, and creepy. The song has all the pulsing synth and electronic that makes NIN songs distinctive and it opens with a odd sample of a doctor asking about a patient’s sexual history. Moaning can be heard throughout the track and if you listen close enough you can hear the actual Queen version albeit played backwards. The experience is weird and eerie, but when you look at songs like “Closer” did we really expect Reznor to treat love and sex nicely?

“Tonight We Murder” – Ministry

Some of the most terrifying and heaviest music comes from Ministry and this song fits both those labels. Released as the b-side to “Stigmata” this track sounds like pure hell. Al Jourgensen cackles, wails, and screams like he’s being tortured while the intense music thumps and grinds to the beat. Everything keeps getting more brutal as Jourgensen steadily loses control as he’s singing. The best is the hook where he sounds evil when he repeats “tonight we murder/tonight we murder.” It actually sounds very similar to Thrill Kill Kult‘s early material, which is no surprise since the two previously worked together.

“Again” – HIM

This melancholy track first appeared as the b-side to “In Joy and Sorrow,” but was later released on a limited edition of Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights. The track is pretty standard for the band: dirty guitars, Ville Valo’s soaring sweet vocals, and Gothic inspired lyrics. This is yet another song that seems to explore the realm of love and death like most of their material. It easily would’ve fit on their third album. The song was later featured in the film Haggard, which was directed by Bam Margera (remember him?) This doesn’t come as a surprise since Bam was obssesed with the band and eventually became friends with Valo.

“Carry Me In” – Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant is a current band I know of that actively releases b-sides. All of them are pretty solid, but one of the best is this b-side to their 2011 single “Shake Me Down.” Singer Matt Shultz sounds weary and weakened as he sings “Love/carry me in/held down by my words/and weight of my sins.” The music starts out kind of frantic especially the beginning, which kind of has this spaghetti Western vibe. Right when you think the song is over, everything slows down to a lull and Shultz continues to mumble his way through the rest of the song. What started out as kind of bright ends on a melancholy note.

“You’re so Vague” – Queens of the Stone Age

I originally wanted to go with “Born To Hula,” but it’s a re-recording of a Kyuss song, the band Josh Homme used to be in. So, I went with this Rated R b-side instead. Using a play on the Carly Simon single “You’re So Vain,” Homme uses his sweet, soothing vocals to sing cringing lyrics like “Green eyed boys/lick the razor blades/girl I think I love you/and the mess you made” and he sounds hypnotic while doing so. There’s even a cool twist on the hook where he sings “Baby you’re so vague/that you probably think this song ain’t about you.”  As usual with QOTSA songs, the music is fucking awesome with guitars that move at a dragging pace, but still manage to sound sexy as hell. Then again don’t most of their songs sound sultry?

“We Will Rock You” – Queen

Did you know that this massive Queen hit started out as a b-side? What’s now considered an anthem for every sporting event across the world was originally the flip side to the equally popular “We Are the Champions.” Its simple stomp clapping beat, Freddie Mercury’s passionate vocal delivery, and Brain May’s searing guitar solo at the end are what makes the song unforgettable. It’s a timeless track and definitely among the band’s best. Both songs were actually written after one show during their 1977 tour when the band walked off stage and the crowd clapped and sand “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to them. Let’s just try to forget the horrible cover versions.

“Sick of Me” – Green Day

This b-side to “Hitchin’ a Ride” finds the classic snotty Green Day attitude as Billie Joe laments a dying a relationship. Though it’s a good song, it’s pretty similar to their other tracks from this time: simple three chord rock with a catchy hook. Still, there are some great bratty and funny lyrics like “Like a dog/that just pissed in your barbecue/sick of me.” This couple tries to make it work, but by the end Billie admits “I’m sick of you too.” Since it follows the winning Green Day formula, it should appeal to most fans. The track was later released on b-side compilation album Shenanigans.

“Fingers and Toes” – Biffy Clyro

If there’s one current band dedicated to the art of the b-side it’s Biffy Clyro. For just about all of their albums, they’ve released a companion b-side LP. They have so many it was hard to pick just one, so I went with on my favorites from their last release Similarities. What instantly catches your attention is the opening line “ladies ask why I’ve got/no fingers and toes.” From there the music kicks up and gets pretty intense, but what’s great about this is they do it without a mass amount of distortion. And even though the music has amped up singer Simon Neil’s voice remain calm throughout. Biffy is definitely one of those bands where their b-sides are just as good, sometimes even better, than the a-sides.

“Throw Them to the Lions” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

Released on the flip side to “Dazzle,” this b-side is the exact opposite of the single. Whereas the a-side is very upbeat and almost whimsical, this one greets the listener with a minute of noise and distortion before Siouxsie Sioux’s soothing voice comes on. Everything about the track is pretty chaotic and all over the place. The music is really dirty, harsh, and intense making it a stand out track. The song also manages to be catchy with Sioux’s warrior cry of “hey/hey/hey” midway through. Sioux and crew have quite a few good b-sides, but this one has always been my favorite.

“Aneurysm” – Nirvana

Though the song did eventually see a wider release both on Incesticide and From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, this Nirvana track was originally released as the b-side to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” From Kurt Cobain growling “Come on over/and do the twist” to the whirring guitar riff that opens the song, it has become one of the best tracks in the band’s entire catalog. The song has several references to Cobain’s ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill along with poking fun at pop music conventions and even his own drug use, which was nothing but a rumor at the time. The best part comes when Cobain lets loose a ragged and weary howl right before the end. It shows how Cobain knew how to transfer a lot his pain into kick ass songs.

There are a ton of b-sides I missed, so let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!