Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“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.