Take Cover! Failure Vs. Depeche Mode

When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week Failure takes on Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!

In 1990, British electronic juggernauts Depeche Mode released what is arguably their best song, “Enjoy The Silence,” the second single from their highly influential seventh album, Violator. My feelings aren’t without quantitative justification, either: The song went to number eight in the U.S. charts, the highest point that any of the band’s 48 singles have reached to this day. It was certified gold in the States and Germany, as well, way before digital record sales became the norm. Just as a refresher, that means more one million physical copies of “Enjoy The Silence” were purchased in hard format, fueling goth-infused dance parties the world over.

While this account can’t be completely authenticated, DM’s chief songwriter Martin Gore allegedly wanted the song to be much slower and balled-esque—and to primarily feature his vocals. Fortunately for us, Gore was convinced by keyboardist Alan Wilder and producer Mark “Flood” Ellis to mold the track into its now infamous sound, which in addition to lead singer Dave Gahan at the forefront features a guitar line Gore wrote that will forever be proof that musical genius often takes the simplest forms. For me, it’s one of the few songs that never gets old, a rare work of art that can be truly considered perfect.

So, in a sense, the idea that any artist could cover “Enjoy The Silence” without staining its legacy is naive. But, like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the song is low-hanging fruit, an almost-guaranteed tool to please a crowd and, all cynicism aside, a really fun song to play. From nü-metal to modern classical, it’s been re-worked in nearly every way imaginable, though one can only hope the song will never reach Owl City.

I chose to highlight Failure’s take because there’s a lot of similarities in how both bands approached songwriting; the work of each is simple without forsaking grandeur, dark without sounding forlorn. Embedded in “Enjoy The Silence” are perhaps the most tasteful tones of the new-wave era, proof of a dedicated production focus that wasn’t lost on Ken Andrews and Co. when they hit their creative peak with Fantastic Planet in 1996. Indeed, Failure’s “Enjoy The Silence” cover could’ve fit comfortably on the record, which, like Violator, is aesthetic cohesion embodied for the delight of your ears. Only, way louder, of course.

Cast your vote wisely:

The Cover:

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The Original:

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3 Comments

  1. pickle
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never been a fan of the overly stiff vocal performances of the Mode, so this is one we’re I’ll have to go with the cover. Plus, Failure was one of the most underrated bands of the 90s so this is my chance to give them some props. Plus, the rock version catches a lot of what’s missing in the sterility of the original.

  2. Posted August 27, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    i’d say dm to be sure, not just because it’s the original by default, but because it has a style and sensibility that’s unique to the genre, the band, and both are reflected in the song, perfectly, as designed.
    however, failure’s version is great. as someone who’s been into alt music for a long time, and who has enjoyed many alt music clubs and nites, one thing i came to notice very often is that alternative covers of other alternative bands songs, even if not in the exact same genre, can be awesome and fun.

  3. t. drew hardin
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    I have never been a big fan of Depeche Mode though in general I like them. but this song stands on its own. You won’t hear it sung by Mitch Miller Singers on Muzak and being dramatically altered in the interim. Therefore, I cast my vote for their version. I do, however, enjoy immensely Failure’s take on the situation. The Husker Du of the 90’s, they knew what the heck to do with this song and made it work, the grunge sound fitting in nicelywith the surrounding sounds not out of place and crushing a song to death like grunge at times has a tendency to do.