Solitude Sounds: Depeche Mode – Violator – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Violator was acclaimed as the album that propelled Depeche Mode into mega stardom, thanks to a pair of massive singles, but more of those later. The album came out in 1990, when the band were beginning to shake off their weedy synth-pop image.
It opens with the pulsing electronics of World In My Eyes, as Dave Gahan crowns “let me take you on a trip”, over slowly building keyboards. Much of the album is not exactly instant, the creeping plod of Sweetest Perfection and final track Clean are not the catchiest tunes you’ll ever hear.
On the other hand, Personal Jesus bursts out of the speakers, all swaggering, twangy guitars and Gahan’s towering vocal, belting out lyrics like “reach out and touch faith”. The song is fairly established in culture by now but still sounds powerful. It was deservedly massive, even what sounds like Martin Gore heavily breathing in the middle couldn’t halt the momentum of this one.
Halo is another Depeche Mode dark, brooding stomper, and doesn’t disappoint, with a huge sound and keyboards that mimic a string section. A total change of pace for what follows, Waiting for the Night creeps in gently on quietly twinkling keyboards as Gahan croons “I’m waiting for the night to fall”, helped by Gore on backing vocals. It’s lengthy at six minutes, taking its time to unfurl before ending with Gore’s moaned, wordless vocal.
Enjoy the Silence is probably their biggest song and it’s a perfect dancefloor tune for the moody kid in the corner, though for my money they had other songs which hit home harder. This album version ends with an almost ambient bleepy interlude before fading into Policy of Truth, a decent song, sure, but nothing special. The vaguely sinister Martin Gore-sung Blue Dress ends with a strange choral interlude.
When this came out in 1990 it was hard for some fans not to feel a little disappointed initially. Only 9 songs, 2 of which had already come out as singles, and what was left wasn’t so accessible. But over the years it’s become a key touchstone album for them, with some subtle songwriting that scratches itself into your soul. A 30 year anniversary edition is about to be released.