If I had to choose my favourite era of Depeche Mode (and I had a gun to my head, natch), I'd probably choose their "industrial" phase; the one they went through during the mid- to late-'80s. Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, and Music For The Masses rank as my favourite works of theirs -- and frankly, it wasn't just the A-sides of the singles that got my blood flowing. Often times during those years, they'd release the single, and then on the B-side there'd be two or three live tracks from a 1983 show at the Hammersmith Ballroom in London, and a "throwaway" instrumental that somehow didn't make it on the album. In 1986, when they released the 12" maxi-single of "Question of Lust" off of Black Celebration, they included for the B-side a most curious track: "Christmas Island," a very odd instrumental penned by both Martin Gore and Alan Wilder (which in itself was very odd; Gore was famously stingy about sharing songwriting credits with anybody).
Beginning with a background television set tuned to some kind of revolutionary recording, with a menacing throbbing synth building up in the distance, "Christmas Island" then proceeds to bust out some serious industrial EMB rhythms, filled with the brim (as was their norm back in those days) with sampled percussion, found sounds, and a distinctly dark overview. Christmas Island itself has been in the news quite a bit these last few months (over twenty-five Iraqi boat-people died horrifically in an incident off the northern coast of Christmas Island just under two weeks ago and set off in the Australian government a major rift over the laws of amnesty to asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia), and the song is written about the island; but that's one of the things that make this track so listenable. What does it all mean? I'll tell you what: It's certainly not about tinsel and holiday trees.
Here's "Christmas Island" from our favourite boys from Basildon in 1986. Enjoy.
a question of lust 12"