Album Review: VCMG (Vince Clarke/Martin Gore)

VCMG is a collaboration between Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure) and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). Ssss comes as the first time the duo have worked together on a full length release since DM's 1981 debut album Speak & Spell.

For myself, I've always loved Speak & Spell, simply because it's a great poppy, discoey, electro-krautrocky LP, and it's very 'Vince'. It could easily be said that the sound of Speak & Spell is more the precusor to Yazoo rather than the ensuing sans-Clarke output from Depeche Mode, which in his own words was "a little dark for [his] taste, but good nonetheless".

Come 2011 and things started to look promising for some kind of collaboration when Clarke contributed a remix (of Behind The Wheel) to the Depeche Remixes 2: 81-11 LP, and over the following winter the first snippets from Clarke and Gore's VCMG surfaced - with two singles/EP through Mute Records - firstly Spock in November and last month, Single Blip.

First thoughts were along the lines of "Cool, this could turn out very interesting in a Eat Static kind of way...", and seeing as this was something coming from two 'giants' of electronica, by the time this week rolled up with the scheduled full LP release, I was anticipating something fairly epic.

So, three days of listening in and have my expectations been fulfilled? Unfortunately I will have to concede that in fact no, this is not the mindblowing album I was looking for. Accomplished? Yes. Probably ideal in a club setting? More than likely. But have I been picked up and thrown across the room? No. It's in many respects a somewhat anticlimactic word to use, but if forced to sum up Ssss in a single soundbite then it would have to be "steady"... There's the promise on nearly all the tracks that in just a minute things are going to kick off bigtime, the proverbial ante will be on the up and it'll be time to pad the walls. It just never seems to happen.

Don't get me wrong - If I had never had overblown expectations of what this LP would or could be, then perhaps I would feel a little more enthusiastic about it and be willing to take it much more as it is, rather than what I pre-emptively presumed it would be. The overall mood is actually quite lo-fi, embracingly bassy in places, a little dark and nothing if not consistent. Sssss does indeed have character, in an understated way, just not CHARACTER (caps intentional) which would make it an album you could truly fall in love with.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh - After all its completely true to say that I came at VCMG with too fixed an idea of what I hoped they would be when given free reign for a entire album. Would I recommend Ssss? In all honesty no, though I'm sure Depeche Mode fans the world over will lap it up as the best thing since sliced milk (maybe mixing my metaphors there a little).

For those interested I would though utterly recommended getting hold of the aforementioned Eat Static's astonishingly fantastic De-Classified LP from 2007 - That's what I thought this album might be like - Sadly, it's not - but that's far more my problem than that of Clarke and Gore themselves of course. I will still be keeping a close eye on proceedings however, to see where they take things in the future...