• Old 'Stache

Depeche Mode Violates with Violator

written by: on November 15, 2011

Timelessness and music aren’t very good bedfellows. We’ve only recently enjoyed the development of recordable and reproducible technologies (with the exception of sheet music and the ever-important ancestral orations of old), and that brief time has seen countless waves, fads, ups, downs, lefts, rights and Elvis Presley.

Music, more than many other art forms that come to mind, is married to the new, the fresh, the happening. Especially given our oversaturated market, it’s rare to encounter an ambient movement, let alone a band or single musician, that transcends our pithy fumbling for “the thing undone.” Depeche Mode is one of those bands, and Violator is one of those albums.

Not unlike bands before and after its time, DM developed out of youthful friendship and an imperative passion for music. The band created an early footing in the UK before crossing foreign waters as members’ Brit-pop pandered closely to the likes of Yazoo and served to energize a juvenile crowd. But as alternative rock began to permeate the industry’s surface during the late 1980s, DM found themselves straddling critic opinion on a global scale. Among their home and surrounding countries, DM were recognized as teen idols who appealed to a much younger crowd, whereas their early popularity in the States rested in the hearts of an underground, alternative audience.

With Music for the Masses, the group began delving into darker synthetics, haunting themes of betrayal and the very real existence of unrequited love. Rather than craft songs for generic masses, DM transformed its process along personal lines. Where Alan Wilder and Martin Gore matured in musicality and lyricism, Dave Gahan supplemented their instruments with a new, painfully alluring voice. Thus, the growth of the band had reached a significant breach in production, allowing its next move to be a vital demonstration of larger intentions.

Having released two of the album’s most prominent singles (“Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus” ) before Violator hit shelves in 1990, the band set the bar high and sharpened expectations of what was to come in the next year.

The former became DM’s first Top 10 single, while the latter distinguished itself as the band’s first gold since its formation a decade prior. DM answered massive anticipation tenfold on March 19, 1990, with a nine-song collection that is considered one of the group’s greatest installments throughout its 36-year run. Eventually, Violator went on to reach No. 7 of the Billboard 200 and held a place for 74 weeks on the chart. It has since been certified triple platinum in America, selling more than 4.5 million units.

On the surface, Depeche Mode’s groundbreaking LP innovated an industrial spin on post-punk music, cultivating a brand of new wave that still engages a mainstream following. Violator saw Gahan, Wilder, Fletcher and Gore utilizing dour synthetic sounds and introspective lyrics that influenced a bevy of genres and big-name musicians for decades to come. Techno’s early pioneers in both Detroit and London regularly cite DM as essential inspiration to the birth of their electronic realm. But DM’s impact on indie rock and even metal bands includes an expansive roster, largely because of their unique recording process and heavy emphasis on sampling.

The Killers, The Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, Linkin Park, Deftones, Coldplay, Bat for Lashes and The Smashing Pumpkins (to name a few) have all stressed how the industrial, electro-pop palette of DM served their musical ambitions, while stars such as Johnny Cash, The Cure and Marylin Manson created their own renditions of Violator’s hit singles.

Violator’s faith-challenging confluence of jealousy, devotion, absolution and lust marks the band’s highest critical, commercial and thematic success. Songs such as “Personal Jesus” and “Halo” encapsulate the importance of redefining religion on an individual level. Gore’s pervasive lyrics insist that listeners occupy devout credence not in the hands of some all-righteous noble god, but rather to capture faith through selfish means. “World in My Eyes” and “Enjoy the Silence” speak to humanity’s subliminal darkness, while “Sweetest Perfect” and “Clean” try to scour the lowest of our lows. Overall, DM’s messages in Violator are succinct without being redundant, while being simultaneously vague without being elusive. It’s only right that DM stood on the largest soapbox when they had the most to say.

Depeche Mode – Violator tracklist:

  1. “World in My Eyes”
  2. “Sweetest Perfection”
  3. “Personal Jesus”
  4. “Halo”
  5. “Waiting for the Night”
  6. “Enjoy the Silence”
  7. “Policy of Truth”
  8. “Blue Dress”
  9. “Clean”