Monday, August 17, 2015

Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)



Yeah, so this happened.  Once again, another of the greatest albums of all time.  Up until 1989 Depeche Mode as a group was largely an underground New Wave/Electronic, "thing".   Sure they were popular among their fans, but they really didn't go mainstream till this album, Violator, in 1990.  So if that's true, why the 2 year disparity?   (I'll get to that in a minute.)  Even worse, how did their first album, 1981's Speak & Spell not certify them as legit?  Seriously, it was easily the more superior album.  However, Violator like the Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with.

Violator was officially released in the spring of 1990.  Buzz for the album began began that previous August in 1989 with the release of the first of the 4 singles from Violator, the ever popular and often covered....

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Personal Jesus

Think about it, that single was released roughly when Prince's Batman soundtrack came out.  So for those that can remember, you were either listening to Personal Jesus or Batdance....  That's right, I said, Batdance. (Eventually when I get a few more soundtracks in my vinyl collection, you'll see this whole album, it was quite good believe it or not...  When I was 11)

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Prince - Batdance

Sorry for that intermission.  Mind you, Personal Jesus was released 13 months after their last single from their previous album, Music For The Masses.  That single, Little 15, solidified Depeche Mode as the dark wave group that we all needed but didn't deserve.  It's almost a crime that we had to wait over a year before we heard anything else.  So obviously, Personal Jesus was the only appropriate follow up of releases.  About 6 months later, still before Violator was released, they released what would become the 2nd single from the album, Enjoy The Silence.  We all now know that's become an anthem of the group.

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Enjoy The Silence

At this point, Depeche Mode was easily the most popular group in the UK.  Enjoy The Silence became their biggest hit, and most nominated song by far.  All of this, and they don't even have an album yet.  By the time Violator was released that March, there was so much buzz and anticipation that Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence simultaneously became their 2 biggest singles ever.  Blame popular radio for that. In a year that's number 1 single was from Wilson Phillips, Hold On, for the uninformed, it was nice to see that there was still a chance for music to not completely suck coming out of one of music's greatest decades.

So let me interject here for a moment.  By 1989 the dynamic in music was beginning to change.  We all know that some of the greatest creativity in music came out of the 80's.  The newest sounds, and techniques that were born of the 70's hit the mainstream.  New Wave was formed, Pop music was actually good and not popular for the sake of being popular.  Meaning that artists were creating lots of "Pop" music, but not for one off's.  There were entire Pop albums and dance parties organized around those albums.  At some point in the late 80's something happened though.  Many "underground" artists were creating new music, much of it was so specialized that there was a shift in listening habits for a lot of fans.  Music became quite literally, very regional and almost less global.  The dynamic now became east coast, west coast, north east, Detroit garage, euro electronic, world beat, Caribbean and so on.  From there came sub genres of music, Hip-Hop birthed "Gangsta".  Rock Gave rise to "Grunge". Caribbean morphed into "Ska" Detroit Garage became "Indie" or "Underground" Euro Electronic became "Trip-Hop" and Prog "Electronica".  It goes a lot deeper.  Why is this relevant to Depeche Mode and more specifically Violator?  Because Violator marked the last album that spoke to a generation of the alienated youth.  The messages and symbols through this album were filled with some of the heaviest messages without being depressing. (Sort of like if the Smiths were an electronic dance group.)  Whether you were Goth or not, there was something on this album for you that much music from 1990 just didn't provide.  The 3rd single, Policy Of Truth is reflective of that.

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Policy Of Truth

The final single, World In My Eyes was released late in the summer of 1990.

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World In My Eyes

A few days later Jane's Addiction will release Ritual De Lo Habitual, and Prince will release the soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge.  Can you feel the direction in which music is headed?  Depeche Mode won't release another album for 3 years, a much, much darker, Songs of Faith And Devotion. Though after that things get weird with them till Playing The Angel in 2005.  Frankly, I'm still mad at Exciter.  Come on, seriously?  Dream On?  What the fuck.  Can you say Luxe Saturday Night Dance Party?  (Hosted by Andre, of course.)  

Guys look, Violator is easily one of the best albums ever made, that's not coming from me alone but scholars of music all over the world.  This album was so popular that it was re-released on vinyl and it was an awesome pressing.  All 180gm of it can be had in virtually any record store worth visiting.  
Next week, something new, something "Current".

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