Monday, August 22, 2022

By 1983, burgeoning British synth-pop band Depeche Mode was still in a state of transition. The outfit lost its primary songwriter, Vince Clarke, soon after the release of debut LP, Speak and Spell. With Martin Gore stepping up to fill those shoes for second full-length, A Broken Frame, the group recruited a new member to join the fold for record number three: Alan Wilder. The keyboardist answered Depeche Mode's ad in music mag Melody Maker looking for someone under 21; Wilder, 22 at the time, simply lied about his age and got the gig.

At the same time, Gore was looking for new inspiration ahead of hitting the recording studio. He found it in January 1983 at a show by legendary German experimental act, Einstürzende Neubauten. The band's harsh, metallic sound influenced Gore to move Depeche Mode's music into a darker and more industrial direction. It was a direction wholeheartedly endorsed by Daniel Miller, the head of DM's label, Mute Records: "(Depeche Mode) were great pop songwriters, but they were also into experimenting with new sounds," Miller once said (via Sacred DM). "I sit at home with my synthesizers making great noises, but when you can put those experiments into the pop form that’s thrilling.”

Setting up shop at John Foxx of Ultravox’s Garden Studios in Spitalfields, London, the members of Depeche Mode spent time navigating the area around the studio recording random sounds that could be used in the new record: “You can take the purest voice in the world,” Wilder said, “and fool around with it digitally until it’s the most evil, monstrous sound. Or you can take a moose fart and make it beautiful.”

As they set about crafting the record, Martin Gore's lyric writing had also taken a turn. He began incorporating more overtly political themes touching on a wide range of subjects from environmentalism and climate change to the horrors of capitalism at work, inspired by a sobering trip to Thailand.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint what it is," Gore told NME in March 1983. "You get older and you see more at the same time. Whether it’s just actually seeing more or seeing it through different eyes… I tend personally to get disillusioned by a lot of things. Things that used to seem great don’t seem so great anymore. Perhaps I’m just a very pessimistic person.”

The resulting album, Construction Time Again, was released on August 22, 1983. The full-length was preceded by lead single, "Everything Counts." The hard-driving dance track was a surprise hit for Depeche Mode, peaking at #6 on the British singles chart. In America, the tune reached #17 on the Dance Clubs Songs chart.

The album was also a success, with Construction Time Again climbing to a peak position of #6 on the UK Albums chart. Over on the UK Independent Album chart, the LP hit #1.