A review of Depeche Mode’s Violator (1990)
It’s hard to remember, from today’s perspective, just how powerful Depeche Mode’s Violator was when it came out in 1990. It neatly, elegantly bridged the gap between punk and mainstream pop while at the same time articulating an aesthetic that somehow convincingly melded the blues to the band’s meticulously programmed synthpop. For the first time on a DM record, guitars occupy a somewhat equal space with sequencers and synthesizers. There isn’t a weak track here, and some are true masterpieces of the genre: “Personal Jesus,” “Sweetest Perfection,” “Waiting for the Night,” “Policy of Truth,” “World in my Eyes.” These are beacons of songcraft and electronic production: Alan Wilder’s production is tight, focused and imaginative – much of Depeche Mode’s ‘classic’ sound, from Some Great Reward to Songs of Faith and Devotion, is due to Wilder’s clever instrumentation and arrangements, and DM have never quite sounded the same since he left in 1995. Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant has said that they were deeply envious of DM’s sound on Violator.
There’s still a freshness to this record’s sound, especially in the remastered CD/DVD version, that can make you want to dance. In big goth boots, maybe. Eyeliner and Martin Gore boa optional.