Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

3WA 2018 #50: Depeche Mode – Violator

My relationship with this band lasted much, much longer than the relationship with the girl who got me interested in this band.

What is it?

Violator is the 1990 album release by Depeche Mode, who had spent most of the decade up to this point working hard at becoming the biggest presence on the bedroom walls of teenaged girls since Duran Duran.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s important to have goals.

How does it sound?

To faithfully pursue the sampler mix of truth:

Why this pick?

When you get right down to it, Violator is the zenith of DM’s career. One could argue that their best work artistically is a release or two earlier or later, but you can’t deny that the band was never bigger than this moment, right here. That makes this record a superb jumping-on point for exploring their catalog.

It helps that it’s a stupendous record that, at merely nine tracks long, doesn’t overstay its welcome or get bogged down. My affection for the other albums comes and goes but I almost never tire of listening to some or all of this one.

Which songs are the highlights?

There are the hits, of course. “World In My Eyes,” “Personal Jesus,” and “Policy of Truth” hold up just fine nearly 30 years later.

Wait, it’s been how many years? Those of us who were around when the album landed: We’re getting old, aren’t we?

Anyway. My actual favorite of the songs here is “Halo,” perhaps in part because it wasn’t one of the big hits.

“Enjoy the Silence” in its album form is a weird beast. Two thirds of its run time is the hit song and the last couple minutes consists of weird electronic noodling. I don’t actually dislike it, but there’s a good argument to be made for picking up the single version.

The album closes with “Clean,” which benefits from an opening bass riff uncannily similar to Pink Floyd’s “One Of These Days.” (This was apparently unintentional on DM’s part.)

Which songs don’t work so well?

I’ve never been a fan of Martin Gore’s weepy little numbers, so “Waiting For the Night” still doesn’t do anything for me. “Blue Dress” falls more-or-less into the same category with similar results.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

Were Violator taken out of consideration somehow, it would’ve been a dartboard situation: Make me a paper target with some album names on it, I’ll throw a dart and pick whichever name gets (un)lucky. The selection list would’ve been Music for the Masses, Spirit, Black Celebration, Some Great Reward, Songs of Faith and Devotion, and maybe Ultra. Maybe.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you to my (poor unfortunate) first girlfriend, a kind soul that I won’t shame here by naming in public, who gave me all those DM mix tapes back during the brief whirlwind stretch when we were dating. Nobody that good and decent should’ve been saddled with being my first romantic entanglement. I got the better part of that deal, no doubt about it.

Holy cannoli, there are only two of these left for the year…


  1. Wonderduck

    I’ve owned two DM albums in my life: 101 and this one. I’m of the opinion that Violator is probably their best album overall, and everything that came after suffers by comparison. Oh, they might have grabbed the magic for a song here or there, sure, but…

    Oh, and 101 is a fantastic studio album. Damn shame it’s a live album. Practically the only way you can tell is the crowd cheering occasionally. Seriously, it’s ridiculously sterile.

    Two more to go… I have no idea what you might put up. I don’t think you’ve done ES Posthumus, but I don’t know that you’re THAT big a fan of them… VNV maybe?

    • Karel Kerezman

      Yeah, 101 is a weird beast. It’s really a “hits” double-album, with crowd noises and the occasional call-and-response bit. I’m used to bands performing their songs live as if they were laying down the studio track all over again (hi, Genesis fan!) so… meh?

      With that said: Music for the Masses is worth owning.

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