Construction Time Again was an open rebellion to Jacques Derrida’s openly nihilistic and destructive deconstructionism

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Richard Wolstencroft examines Depeche Mode as an Alt-Right band:

The new CD is rather good, by the way, a true return to form after their last less-than-stellar Delta Machine effort. And—surprise, surprise—it’s filled to the brim with political and Alt-Rightish-type messages, memes, misanthropy, and mischief.

But first a little history and a somewhat outrageous statement: I think Depeche Mode are the Rolling Stones or Beatles of the 80s.


Now apropos the accusations of right-wing or fashy politics. First let’s consider the historical milieu from which they emerged—the New Romantic, New wave and Electro Revolution. In the late 70s/early 80s, fashy right-wing signalling was surprisingly common. It was even very hip to do so. Bands like Joy Division, Kraftwerk, NON, Death In June, Current 93, and Throbbing Gristle, to name just a few, openly embraced fascist and right-wing aesthetics—probably taking after Bowie and his Thin White Duke period. And the lyrics in many songs and publicity shots reflected the same.

Even more commercial bands like Ultravox, Human League, Gary Numan, Japan, Devo, Furniture, Visage, and Talk Talk embraced some fashy style imagery, as well as conservative ideas and lyrics. It was sort of a New Romantic and New Wave counter revolution against the destructive anarchy of punk and it’s aftermath. Funnily enough John Lydon recently said he backed Brexit and thought Trump was punk, so even he has come around and you can some early signs of this in his Flowers of Romance and PiL projects. “I could be Right, I could be wrong”—from Rise, etc.


After Ian Curtis of Joy Division, an open admirer of fascism, topped himself, the band looked across the channel to Portugal and Salazar’s regime and to Indonesia’s fashy Suharto to choose their new name, New Order. They went on to achieve global success, dominance, and importance, much like the subject of this essay, Depeche Mode.

The members of Mode all emerged from this fashy signalling New Romantic and avant grade electronic milieu. The band’s first album, mainly written by the synth pop guru and genius Vince Clarke of later Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S) and Erasure fame, launched the band with their first album Speak and Spell.

Politics was not so present on the first album, but was more reflected the band’s name a reference to Fast Fashion and New Romance—a pre-Bret-Easton-Ellis type notion that celebrated the decadent 80s love of surface, fast living, young love, good looks, and high times. But, as soon as Vince Clarke left the band and Martin Gore took over the songwriting slot, they began signalling political ideas of both the Left and Right.

This Left and Right synthesis was both progressive and forward-looking for the era, and really added to the band’s power level, intellectual weight, longevity, and the ability of their work to sound as relevant today as ever. Some may laugh at that, but there were recent articles in NME and elsewhere reporting the “findings” of some university boffins that Depeche Mode has the most intelligent lyrics of any band ever.

A Broken Frame, their second LP, featured a Neo-Realist folk type cover, reminiscent of both Nazi art and the Communist “Realism” that was favoured by the Stalin and subsequently China and North Korea. The follow up Construction Time Again was an open rebellion to Jacques Derrida’s openly nihilistic and destructive deconstructionism that was all the rage in the 80s intellectual scene. It also featured a fascistic cover of an Aryan man smashing down a hammer. From that image alone the Alt-Right could have been born. Again, the Left and Right symbolism were being mixed together.

So, “construction time again” it was with Mode, and many of our generation who despised deconstruction and relativist bullshit!

Mode went forward with leaps and bounds after Vince Clarke left, having smash hits like People are People and releasing dark, subversive dance masterpieces with an S&M flavour, like Master and Servant. That song gives off a Nazi vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on The Night Porter.

The album Music for the Masses featured a kind of overarching, fashy motif of a loudspeaker in the wilderness on the cover and an anthem and theme song on the record, Pimpf, given visual expression with the help of the wonderful Anton Corbijn.

This was quite openly the most fascist reference in their whole oeuvre. Pimpf was named after a Nazi Youth Movement, and at this time Martin Gore began making his most fashy statements in the media about politics. There is a side story here I might share.

Gore, the rumour goes, was getting into fascist aesthetics, fashion, and ideas from the mid to late 80s until the early 90s, until he discovered his real father was of mixed race, or something along those lines. Then he went silent on the issue. But he still continued to signal these ideas in his art, albeit in a slightly more diffused and subterranean way. But he was also signalling some left-wing Socialist ideas. With him, it seems, there’s always been a kind of dialectic at play.


  1. Kirk says:

    What. The. F**k.

    Depeche Mode as a right-wing fascist band? What sort of definition are they using for that, here? “Anything not overtly Communist or praising Communism is fascist and right-wing…”?

    Swear to God, every time I start to think these people aren’t nuts, there comes along something that just doubles, or in this case, quadruples down on the previous stupidity. All the years I listened to Depeche Mode, and read about them, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of something so outlandish as this. They are, as far as I know, just a pop band. A good one, but still… Just a band. Fascist? Right-wing? WTF? Are they going to be re-interpreting ABBA as a bunch of neo-Nazis, next? There is that whole “Waterloo” thing–They must be imperialists, obviously…

    Dear God, but these people are f**king insane.

  2. Steve Johnson says:

    I’ve been a Depeche Mode fan for a long time and never had any inkling that this is true – I always interpreted the Construction Time Again and Music for the Masses covers as communist imagery (and the mysterious Russian language voice over* at the beginning of To Have and To Hold kind of cemented that impression).

    * It was mysterious in the late ’80s – in 2017 a translation is a quick google search away. Also learned that the “I want to tell you my side of the case” sample from some Policy of Truth remixes is Nixon.

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