Depeche Mode's fourth album, Some Great Reward, was a bit of a departure for the band. After releasing three album's of synth-heavy Britpop—Speak & Spell, A Broken Flame, and Construction Time Again—the UK-based group moved into more socially relevant, and darker territory.
From the packaging (a couple getting married in a cold, desolate factory) to the album's singles ("People are People," "Blasphemous Rumours," "Master and Servant"), Some Great Reward dealt with larger issues than not getting enough of whatever they couldn't get enough of on "Just Can't Get Enough." "People are People" dealt explicitly with racism and exclusion, growing concerns in 1984, the year of the album's release. "Master and Servant" dealt exxxplicitly with the carnal order of who's on top ("It's a lot like life/played between the sheets/with you on top/and me underneath/forget all about equality/let's play/master and servant"), framed in the context of socially manipulation ("Domination is the name of the game/In bed or in life/they're both just the same").
But beyond the singles, Depeche Mode crafts a dark, intense, and spooky industrial sound that heightens the impact of the more mature lyrics. "Something to Do," the album's opener, begins with a quick, horror-movie-style rhythm, complete with a tinkling piano in the background like you could hear while watching Halloween. "Somebody," on the other hand, is a less throbbing track, opening with the sounds of an ethereal wind and a distant, ghostly train whistle.
Some Great Reward laid the groundwork for the sound that would become Depeche Mode's trademark on their next three albums, Black Celebration, Music for the Masses, and Violator, propelling the group to pop's upper echelons. And on Rhino's remastered Some Great Reward, released as a two-disc set that includes a DVD in October, the proto-industrial soundscapes and lyrics Depeche Mode experimented with sound better than ever.
Disc one of the set is the nine-track album, remastered superbly by the sure hands at Rhino. Like with their Talking Heads reissues, Rhino's restoration of Some Great Reward sounds beautiful, with every beat, hum, and throb crystal clear. Disc two, the DVD, includes the album in three mixes: 5.1, 5.1 surround, and PCM, as well as two b-sides ("In Your Memory" and "(Set Me Free) Remotivate Me"), a remix of "Somebody," live versions of the album's tracks, and a short film documenting the making of the album. The three audiophile mixes are full and rich, giving a workout to your home theater system or computer speakers. The extra tracks are decent enough, and Rhino should be credited for keeping them off of disc one—the album should stand on its own, which it does, and whatever discarded tracks are included should be put somewhere else, which they are. The short film is an interesting watch for Depeche Mode fans; everyone involved with the making of the album go through the circumstances of recording the album in West Germany, and go track by track discussing how each song came to be on the album.
Unlike most reissues clogging online download stores and brick-and-mortar shelves, this re-release of Some Great Reward is well worth downloading or picking up (as are all of Rhino's recent Depeche Mode reissues). The album sounds better than ever, and the extra content isn't some cheap ploy to cash-in on an already-popular album; it's tailored for the Depeche Mode fan, heightening the experience of the album. Rhino's treatment of Some Great Reward is certainly befitting one of Depeche Mode's finest albums.
(Read this review at Blogcritics.)