Why are Depeche Mode’s awful lyrics so compelling?

I discovered Agata Pyzik because of her recent book on Eastern European politics and culture, which I’m still making my way through.

Meanwhile that has led me to her blog, which includes this outstanding post on the atrocious-yet-compelling lyrics of Depeche Mode;

The power of Depeche Mode’s lyrics lay in a perfect combination of vagueness and a resemblance to agitprop, ending up somewhere between the political sloganeering of the falling Communist bloc and the promises of the Big Capital offered by the West.

If after pop art, everything could be important for 15 minutes, the pop lyric makes sense only during the provisional three minutes of a single. The words hold meaning within the context of this magical moment, and nowhere else. It’s a metaphorical space of transformation, where temporary unions and associations can form. A pop utopia.

She also captures something of their iconography, that odd blend of high futurism, coldness and romaticism:

Depeche could appeal to both Soviet Bloc and America, because aesthetically and lyrically they consciously flirted with both sides of the Curtain: heavy industry, Red Army, red stars, looming nuclear catastrophy and Potemkineqsue battleships for one side and lust, orgies, stock market, Eastern Tigers, money, high contracts and cocaine binges for the other.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *