Construction Time Again

Depeche Mode

Mute Records, 1983

http://www.depechemode.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/07/2009

The song title from this album perhaps says it best: “The Landscape Is Changing.” Depeche Mode was going through some serious growing pains by the time 1983 rolled around, and with the addition of a fourth member (Alan Wilder), this was a band that was more than ready for an overhaul -- a bolder sound with the biggest impact possible. Unfortunately, the attempt made in Construction Time Again misses the mark completely.

Sure, this is the place you will find the pivotal breakthrough single “Everything Counts,” but everything surrounding it totally falls apart. Singer Dave Gahan was trying to sing out more, but the slowed down mix doesn’t do him any favors. At times, it sounds like his vocal was recorded underwater. Coupled with the album’s plodding pace, it all makes for a disappointing listen. Chief songwriter Martin Gore is the only member who seemed to be coming into his own on this, their third release. A terrific lyric like “Grabbing hands grab all they can / Everything counts in large amounts,” is a bulls-eye statement about our culture of consumerism. Just one look at a shopping mall during the Christmas season will tell you that Gore is stating the truth.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another song where the lyrics show some promise is “Shame.” The line “Hope alone won’t remove the stains” almost sounds like a jingle for a laundry detergent…or a snippet of dialogue from a twelve-step meeting gone bad. At any rate, Gore is the one bright star on this otherwise mediocre set of tunes. The upbeat dance song “Told You So” has some manic energy that makes it an instant standout, though it feels oddly out of place here. And “Pipeline” had some intriguing droning sounds, though the track would have been better minus the intrusive plunking electronic noises that come along with it.

Substituting the hallowed ambient tones of A Broken Frame with distracting industrial sounds may not have pleased everyone at the time of this album’s release, but it was a necessary step in order for Depeche Mode to find a larger audience. In subsequent albums, they would continue to hone what would become their trademark sound, a sound expansive enough to be a draw for arena-size shows both in their homeland and right here in the States. After that, there would simply be no stopping them.

If you are looking for vintage Depeche Mode, Construction Time Again is not quite the place you should start. In my humble opinion, it’s not even an essential piece of the puzzle. As many a critic will undoubtedly tell you, this was one of their worst records. The follow-up, however, would make this failed experiment nothing more than a distant memory. With a little perseverance and a lot of hard work, there would be Some Great Reward waiting for Depeche Mode just one year later.

Rating: C-

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mute Records, and is used for informational purposes only.