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Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)

May 13, 2014

[Album 310/1001]Depeche_Mode_-_Violator

“Lose yourself in the music, the moment”
– Eminem, from the Oscar-winning song Lose Yourself

One of the great feelings in the world?  Immersing in a record, getting drawn in, forgetting about other tasks that are also demanding attention.

My cute wife & I have discussed this phenoemenon with regard to movies/talking pictures: if a film is engrossing and can fully/completely reel you in for a couple of hours, now that’s a film worth seeing.

Much as I like the record (and I do), I just don’t get that escapism feeling with Violator.

The songs are well crafted, the production is top notch, and the album works well as a package.  Dave Gahan’s voice is among the most intriguing in the business and the album has big singles to spare, with Policy of Truth and Enjoy the Silence leading the way.

Despite my best efforts (and I suppose trying to get into an album is rarely a recipe for success), I struggled to become fully invested.  I’d listen happily (and I’ve been listening sporadically for months), thinking “that’s a neat part, cool hook, nice vocal line” but I was well aware of my surroundings on each listen.

Frankly, it’s my own fault.  As I acknowledged when I reviewed Music for the Masses, I like guitars.

Perhaps because the guitar-driven I Feel You was my gateway Depeche Mode song, I’m always surprised by how little emphasis is placed on my beloved 6-string in most of their other songs.  The guitars are front & centre on Personal Jesus but cast in a supporting role for the bulk of Violator.

World In My Eyes is an appropriate microcosm of my struggle: it’s a good song and an effective opening track.  However, I inevitably get taken out of the moment when the spotlight is placed squarely on the synthesizers, notably in the intro & outro.

Maybe it’s a case of mismanaged expectations.  I should think of Depeche Mode as an electronic band first and foremost and approach their recordings through that lens.  The guitar features on songs like I Feel You are special treats, get over it already!

This post should not be misconstrued as a negative review: as a piece of art, Violator works well.

One of those pieces of art that I appreciate, if without the full emotional investment.

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From → 1990s

11 Comments
  1. A great album. I said that knowing fully well that it could be a time and place thing. It was a groundbreaking record by a band at the peak of their powers… But if you aren’t into synth pop, it might not be your thing. If you prefer guitars, check out the acoustic version of “Personal Jesus. It’s a completely different sound.

    • The Cash version is definitely a different take! I like the riff on the acoustic, the subtle piano’s a nice touch as well.

      I’ve learned I really like synth as an accent rather than the main element. Sort of like in Just Like Heaven, the synth long notes are really nice (and very necessary) but it’s up to the guitar to take the lead. Personal preference I suppose!

      • Cash’s version is definitely different but DM did an acoustic version also. And it rocks!

  2. Ah, memories of the tenth grade! Love this album!

    • I’m becoming a firm believer whatever albums were in the rotation between grades 10-12 will be forever remembered fondly – which for me means a lot of CanCon like the Hip will always be good in my books!

  3. I sympathise. For me, a band like Depeche Mode can come across as sterile regardless of the hooks, tunes or how technically adept they are. That said, this album contains two of my favourite DM tunes, Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence, both of which display a warmth that is often missing from their other work. If you haven’t heard the Johnny Cash version of Personal Jesus then I would strongly recommend it. Great post, thank you.

    • Sterile – I’ll be borrowing that term, thanks!
      I’ve had that feeling from some movies/books as well where the components are excellent, but it’s missing some sort of intangible.
      I just listened to Cash’s version, he has that ability to make any song sound like a Johnny Cash song, impressive!
      Speaking of covers, Failure’s version of Enjoy the Silence will probably make an appearance on a future Top 5 Covers list

  4. eeek, 9th grade alert!
    I actually like “songs of faith and devotion” a bit more.

    • Hey you could do a lot worse than this when it comes to grade 9 music!
      I only know the singles from the albums after this one, but I enjoyed what I’ve heard from Songs of Faith & Devotion and Ultra

  5. I’m like you Stephen, I like the IDEA of Depeche Mode, and a fair few of their songs, but can’t say I would listen to them much, or out of choice.

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