Picks and Pans Review: For the Masses

updated 08/10/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/10/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Various Artists (1500/A&M)

Despite their growing popularity, many tribute albums come off as cheesy and passionless—but not this surprisingly energetic tribute to Depeche Mode by mostly younger bands. Ironically, even in their 1980s heyday the four members of this British synth-pop group were themselves guilty of churning out some of the cheesiest and most passionless music around. But shorn of its original tinny-sounding arrangement, a song like "Never Let Me Down Again," lushly reinterpreted here by Smashing Pumpkins, is transformed from a cool brush-off into a paean to friendship. Thanks to earthier-sounding American bands, like the currently in vogue Deftones—as well as cutting-edge international acts—this compilation highlights Depeche Mode's secret strength: alluring melodies. The group may have lost its widespread appeal by the late 1990s, but the best moments here suggest it ought to demand a recount.

Bottom Line: A warm homage to icy icons from the '80s

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