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Construction Time Again was the 3rd album by the British synth band Depeche Mode who at the time comprised of Andrew Fletcher, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore & Alan Wilder who officially became a band member on this album despite having worked on some of the previous album & toured with the band as well.
The album was released in 1983 & its best recorded chart position was #6 in the UK Albums Chart giving it Gold record status. Estimated global sales figures for the album were in excess of 2.8 million units. The title comes from the second line of the song "Pipeline". The mountain on the albums cover is the Matterhorn.
All songs were written by Martin Gore unless otherwise stated, Dave Gahan sings all lead vocals unless otherwise stated.
So whats on Construction Time Again then?
1. "Love, in Itself" - 4:29
This track was the 2nd single, released September 19, 1983. its highest recorded chart position was #21 in the UK Singles Chart. The intro had me thinking of Alphavilles "Big In Japan" as well a few different tracks by The Thompson Twins (especially with the accompanying xylophones) so I guess those broad brass chords are a Prophet V which Tom Bailey also favoured. I like the rather counterpointed melody, its what I like to call an "anti-tune" but it really works here. That rather dischordant last minute of music really doesnt work for me though.
2. "More Than a Party" - 4:23
Synth Rock-A-Billy? Thats what the intro to this is, if they weren't using synths it could easily be the tune to something like "Rock Lobster" by The B-52's, but its played in a very Industrial style which had been influencing Martin Gore during the writing of this album. It does have the feel of "Whip Blow" by Cabaret Volataire so thats the Industrial influence right there. Another track thats a bit too dischordant & doesnt work for me. Its very retro towards the old Punk sound in parts, perhaps thats the audience demographic it was being aimed at?
3. "Pipeline" - 6:15
This track was sung by Martin Gore, the intro feels a bit like experimental stuff that might have been influenced by people like Brian Eno or David Sylvian. The albums title is sung during the lyric which scans more like the work song of a chain gang, a bit like a very slow tempo version of "You Take Me Up" by The Thompson Twins (A quick Google told me this album predates The Twins release so the influence may well be the other way around). The tune (if you can call it a tune) is extremely simple, stark & minimal. It took more than half the song to realise this would later become the structure for the track "In Your Room".
4. "Everything Counts" - 4:19
This track was the 1st single released July 11, 1983 and its best recorded chart position was #6 in the UK Singles Chart. Its quite an unusual song because Gahan sings lead whilst Gore sings the chorus to create quite a unique vocal sound. The electronic clarinet (at least thats what I assume it is) sounds very Indian, I do love the almost litany style of the main lyrics delivery by Gahan entoning the evil that money & business embodied during the 80's when greed was good to paraphrase the movie Wall Street. The out of tune segments of this really work well & you can see where the start of sampling happened with the band as they went utterly sampling crazy for this album. I do love the little motif that sounds like its being played on a synthesized recorder near the end.
5. "Two Minute Warning" - 4:13
This was one of the tracks written by Alan Wilder, its absolutely nothing to do with Nuclear War (which I was expecting it to be from the time) as that'd be a 3 or 4 minute warning. The lyrics dont really explain the reason by the title but "my time has come, my days are numbered" is quite a nice image, my guess is its about facing up to responsibility.
6. "Shame" - 3:50
Quite a heavy bass synth opens this very low down song, Dave Gahan does his usual job of sounding as miserable as hell for a guy making lots of money from a career in a famous pop group. I get the feeling this is another Industrial inspired song with lyric "even surgery wont improve your pain". Very Trent Reznor methinks, it stinks of the Nine Inch Nails tracks "Terrible Lie" & "Ringfinger" but this album predates those tracks by 6 years. It seems theres no-one Depeche mode haven't influenced then.
7. "The Landscape Is Changing" - 4:47
Another of the tracks written by Alan Wilder, also reeks of the Prophet V synth again. People claim Wilder helped to create the "true" or "classic" Mode sound but all I hear is a carbon copy of The Thompson Twins stuff.
I'm wondering if this was because the album was recorded at John Foxx's studio and they were using his equipment. The track is very much a mish-mash, bits of it are really good chord sequences whilst the bulk is extremely awful. I guess the Landscape wasn't the only thing changing for Depeche Mode, their sound was and not always for the better it seems.
8. "Told You So" - 4:24
This is heavily influenced by the Industrial sound again, especially that rapidly played intro before it kicks into the chords. It does have elements of later Mode tracks (I'm hearing bits of "Waiting For The Night" in there), its quite a bizarre little tune and some of it is a tad painful through headphones. Gahans voice reminds me more of Marc Almond during Soft Cells "Non-stop Erotic Cabaret" period in a good way.
9. "And Then..." - 4:34
Big In Japan again? "Love, in Itself" already had that niche covered I thought but this devolves into "Black Man Ray" by China Crisis when those acoustic guitars kick in. Its too much of a cacophany over what could have been a really cool track if you'd pulled the overly oppressive synths and just left drums, guitars & vocals. That alone would have made for an extremely cool Tears For Fears (circa "Pale Shelter") style track. If they'd reworked this it could have been a very successful single I think. It shows sometimes less IS more.
10. "Everything Counts (Reprise)" - 1:05 [hidden track]
Just a quick reprise of Everything counts as a hidden bonus track.
If you were lucky to have got hold of the US version you would have also got the following track as well:-
"Everything Counts (Long Version)" - 7:23
Basically its just a longer reworked version of Everything Counts which probably went on to be released as a 12 inch.
Summing up:- Is Construction Time Again any good? Bits of it are ok, most of its extremely derivative. Clearly it inspired other artists but the band just hadn't settled down into any kind of decent or definate sound style yet. Is is worth your money? Well its got 2 hit singles on it & it went Gold but that only proves some people will buy anything if its slickly marketed.
Its more a shelf filler than a floor filler & I highly doubt it'd get much airplay or circulation in your music collection. Like its predecessor it's one to buy for completist purposes only, theres really nothing on there to provide any life changing experiences. If you dont already own it ask for it as a gift so its not your money being wasted on it.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Love In Itself
2 More Than A Party
4 Everything Counts
5 Two Minute Warning
7 Landscape Is Changing
8 Told You So
9 And Then
10 Everything Counts