Speak & Spell/Construction Time Again

Continuing my quick reviews of all the Depeche Mode albums leading up to next week’s Sounds of the Universe release. 

Anybody remember the Columbia Record Club? It was called that or something close. Where you enrolled and got 12 tapes for a buck, then needed to buy four tapes over four years. Something like that? 
I enrolled and among my first tapes (cassette tapes–if you’ve never seen one, google it) were Depeche Mode’s Speak & Spell and Construction Time Again. I’m posting my thoughts in one blog since these are my two least favorite DM albums. 
Speak & Spell isn’t really a Depeche Mode album. Yes, it has “Just Can’t Get Enough” on it, one of their classics. But this is a Vince Clarke album. He helped start the band, and he wrote most everything on this album. It sounds a lot like Yaz and Erasure because Vince Clarke continued in both of those bands. I’m a fan of both of them. But the Vince Clarke-Depeche Mode sound is quite different from the first album I got (Some Great Reward). Everything on Speak & Spell sounds chirpy and catchy and pure Atari-land. 
The other album was Construction Time Again. I see this as Depeche Mode’s true sophomore album, with Martin Gore writing all of the songs. He was still trying to find his “voice” in my opinion. Many of these songs are political and don’t seem to work. U2 could do politics, but not these guys. The songs began to take on gothic tones, such as the clanging sounds of “Pipeline.” It literally sounds like someone’s building a pipeline in the other room as some guy droans throughout the song. Interesting, but not quite one to play in a concert! 
Still, Construction Time Again gave us one of DM’s most classic songs: “Everything Counts.” It’s still among my favorites. It’s a crowd-pleaser at concerts–when you go, everybody sings the words. It was the closing song on their 101 tour. Just watch the video for that, with an entire stadium singing back to Dave and Martin and gang. Classic. 
I remember when I got these two albums, I was a little disappointed. I had gone in reverse in terms of purchasing their albums. I still had another to go to own all their albums so far. 
I think I already started getting abuse for liking them, especially for their totally feminine-looking cover for their Catching Up With Depeche Mode album. I still wondered what was up with the blonde-haired guy named Martin who wrote all the songs. But like I said in my last post on them, they had mystique. I was fascinated to continue to discover their music.