Depeche Mode do politics! Yeah, on the surface of it, this might not appear to be a logical progression from their usual palate of religious imagery, distorted love, and general pain and all round suffering. However, those of you who consider themselves fans of the Mode might let loose a little sigh of trepidation as a previous attempt at developing a language of social consciousness, “People Are People”, is perhaps not considered to be one of their greatest achievements.
So let’s dig into this brand new song – Yeah, never let it be said that I can’t do up to date contemporary up to the minute stuff – yeah – because this is the latest single from the latest electronic bag of goodies from the mighty Depeche Mode, which is their brand new album, “Spirit”.
Let’s dive straight in and enjoy the video/audio experience (depending upon whether you keep your eyes open or not).
Possibly my favourite part of that typically stylish video was the awkward moment of attempted choreographed movement between singer Dave Gahan, songwriter Martin Gore and the other one Andy Flectcher who have been the core members of Depeche Mode since the departure of multi-instrumentalist Alan Wilder since the ill-fated tour in support of their more rock orientated album, “Songs of Faith and Devotion”, back in the 90s. Long term fans of Depeche Mode will be familiar with video maker Anton Corbin’s inspired use of weird juxtaposed imagery that I will expect to see projected large behind the band when they tour in support of this new album (although I have to say that I feel particularly spoiled with only the choice of one date in London so far, thank you… not).
You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions?
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies
As a call to arms, it might not catch the zeitgeist as “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols did back in the 70s did but it does ask the important questions about why there has been an increasingly sense of dislocation or apathy when it comes to traditional party politics in the UK (and other countries across Europe in particular) and how this has resulted in things such as increasing support for fringe parties such as UKIP or the decisions that led to a slim majority of people who voted in the referendum to vote in favour of leaving the European Union last summer.
The song seems to have a rather despairing tone as Dave Gahan (probably one of the few people who could have terrified Primal Scream into reducing their drug intake when they witnessed his continual drug riddled addiction and several near death experiences on that same ill-fated tour) is possibly voicing the ideas and opinions of an older generation who have always expected the next generation of take over the task of being card-carrying, flag-waving standard bearers for the continuation of revolutionary fervour. Hence, we get an accusatory chorus of:
Where’s the revolution
Come on, people
You’re letting me down
Whilst we get musical echoes of some of their finest moments (particularly “I Feel You” from “Songs of Faith and Devotion” or “Personal Jesus” from “Violator”), we get a lyrical tone that perhaps reflects how Gahan was influenced by the late 70s punk scene to get into music in the first place.
You’ve been pissed on
For too long
Your rights abused
Your views refused
They manipulate and threaten
With terror as a weapon
Scare you till you’re stupefied
Wear you down until you’re on their side
This gets us to the core of the song, and why I find myself writing about it today (not long after the terrorist actions of one deluded, extremist man on Westminster Bridge and outside the House of Parliament).
I thought that growing up in the 1980s was worrying as I, and many of my peers back at the time, was convinced that nuclear Armageddon was a matter of when not if. We listened to songs like Ultravox’s “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and had serious heart to heart conversations about what we would do when we heard the three minute warning go off, and had moments until we were vaporised in the heat of the nuclear blast. Go and look at my post about “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood to see more about this time – and how it reflected a perhaps less than totally mature obsession with getting my end away (so to speak).
However, back in the 1980s, we had clear ideology between East and West and clear rules of engagement as both the USA and the USSR were demotivated by the prospect of MAD (mutually assured destruction, for your younger people). Nuclear war would kill everybody. Nobody wins.
I know that terrorism works according to different “rules” but we lived under the constant threat on terror back then too, primarily due to the campaign of the IRA to bomb mainland Britain in order to force the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. However, even terrorism seemed to have different rules and priorities as they planted car bombs and gave warnings (mostly) before exploding them often with tragic consequences. Guildford and Woolwich in 1974. The Birmingham pub bombings of 1974. Manchester, Liverpool, Coventry, Bristol and Southampton in 1978. Chelsea barracks in London in 1981. Hyde Park and Regent’s Park in London in 1982. They even got worryingly close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher with a Brighton hotel bomb in 1984.
My children (and particularly my granddaughter) have been growing up in times when the ideology and process of conflict have completely changed. The events on Westminster Bridge were the actions of a man who had allowed his dedication to a peaceful religion to become distorted and degraded and twisted beyond the comprehension of other Muslims, and also beyond the imaginations of most sane people. His primary weapon was a car. His target was civilians. I would like to think that equally sane people will see these people (for want of a better word – maybe animals is a better choice) exactly in that way – as displaying the signs of madness brought on by religious fundamentalism (which is exactly how I see it, having no religious ideals or beliefs whatsoever… ex-Catholic, see?). However, before even 24hours had passed, I was starting to see content (on Facebook) and other sites, that indicated how people were already starting to blame innocent Muslims who had played no part in this atrocity. We couldn’t possibly fall for that old blame game could we?
Oh, sorry… I forgot… we are experts at this game. I mean, it was practically the basis of why so many people voted for Brexit… they’re all coming over here and taking our jobs… British jobs for British workers… blah blah blah. Oh, and wasn’t it the reason why people voted for the Coalition back in 2010? To sort out the dole scroungers and fake disabled people who were the reason for the deficit… or was that the bankers who caused the economy to crash a couple of years before? It can be so difficult when there are so many choices of people to blame, all depending upon you specific political ideology of course. Thankfully, those seven years of politically motivated austerity have all worked out totally tickity boo.
We have been lied to, and manipulated, and generally taken advantage of time and time again by politicians of every political hue and classification, and our solution is to pick on the poor people? Our solution is to pick on the “foreigners”? Our solution is to pick on people who are disabled because there are a handful of criminals who have defrauded the government by pretending to be disabled? Oh, but we are not picking on the politicians who defrauded the country with extortionate expenses claims, or dodgy party political finances during election campaigns? We are not picking on the billionaires and corporations who enjoy tax benefits whilst pension age is pushed back and back until most people will die before they are able to enjoy the fruits of retirement.
We are angry but we are not learning. Time to wise up people.
Where’s the revolution?
Oh… you twisted my arm. Enjoy “People Are People”. Feel free to leave a comment if you feel moved to do so.