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Music Review: Depeche Mode – Violator

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Violator is a somewhat famous album released in 1990 by synth-pop band Depeche Mode. It is fairly unique for an album that has enjoyed so much mainstream success. Even eighteen years after its release, it still sounds fresh. This is part of what makes the album so memorable. Good music lasts.

But more than its longevity, Violator is also very groovy and fun. From the first notes of “World in My Eyes,” I was hooked by the Depeche Mode's catchy synth-pop beats. The song didn’t really stick out to me at first, but with more rotations, I couldn’t get enough of it. Depeche Mode’s sound is amazingly unique for a band so mainstream. It is bands like them which make me believe that people once had better taste in music.

But mainstream is a relative term. Many don’t know this wonderful band and the footprint they’ve made on the musical world. After listening to this album, I could see where Muse got their inspiration for Black Holes and Revelations, an album not even a tenth as good as Violator. The music video for Coldplay’s recently released “Viva la Vida” actually mimics the music video of "Enjoy the Silence" off this ablum. Without a doubt, Depeche Mode were pioneers in the synth-pop sound that influenced many artists.

Depeche Mode’s strength lies in their mastery of crafting a catchy yet unique song. This almost seems like a contradiction in terms. But an example of Violator’s duality of catchiness and uniqueness can be heard in track two, “Sweetest Perfection.” The song is dark, brooding, and passionate, and yet, strangely captivating. The twelve-eight time signature gives it a swing feel, and the accompanying strings, which can sometimes be cheesy and misplaced in other music, work well in this song.

The most rocking and famous song off Violator is track three, “Personal Jesus. ”Surprisingly, I find this song to be one of the weaker ones. Yet I still like it — perhaps I've listened to it too much to appreciate it much anymore. But people who have never heard it will instantly fall in love with its driving simplicity.

Track five, “Waiting for the Night,” displays Depeche Mode’s softer side. The song has an almost childlike simplicity. I don’t cry often listening to music, and this holds true for this song as well, but I can see this song as being one people would cry to. Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is soft and tender.

And now, with track six, we have my favorite song on the album, “Enjoy the Silence.” It is a beautiful song with a beautiful message, about how words can often ruin a perfect moment between lovers. Sometimes we just need to learn how to shut up and enjoy the silence. The words of the chorus are pure poetry: “All I ever wanted, All I ever needed is here in my arms / Words are very unnecessary / They can only do harm.”

“Enjoy the Silence” has been covered by numerous bands, and for good reason. It is amazing, end of story. It is the crowning jewel of one of the best albums of 1990. Even if you don’t think Violator is up your alley, at least find this song.

The only other song worthy of mention on Violator is “Policy of Truth.” It has the same catchy synth-pop thing going for it that makes their more upbeat tracks so great.

Unfortunately, the album lags in quality following "Policy of Truth." Don’t get me wrong; the songs are good. They are just not great. But to end my examination of Violator's tunes on a positive note, the first seven tracks are amazing enough to counterbalance the three so-so ones at the end.

Violator is a fun and unique album. You do not even have to even be fan of synth-pop to enjoy it – I certainly wasn't when I bought it. Actually, it is hard to imagine anyone not liking the album after giving it a shot. Despite the uniqueness of the band, Depeche Mode is also highly accessible and they definitely grow on you.

And better yet, practically every song on the album is danceable. That is, if you don’t mind taking a trip back to 1990. But in the case of Violator, that is a trip you will be willing to take fairly often. Four and a half out of five stars.

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About Kyle West

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Review…

    With albums like Violator,Songs of Faith & Devotion and Ultra, I’ve always had a hard time considering them “synth-pop”. When I hear that term I think of about a lot of those shallow bands that are disrupting the airwaves nowadays. Plus, they didn’t completely rely on synthesizers…They pretty much had a full band (drums,guitar,vocals) They really weren’t mainstream either if I recall correctly. They had the freedom of the alternative bands in the 80’s & 90’s but they also had the ability to break through a few times and it almost always seemed “at will”. I, personally, see them as a post Industrial/Electronic band.
    Still, Violator is a brilliant piece of work! IMO,their best track is “Halo”

  • Sabrina

    What about Halo? That is probably one of the best songs off that album!

  • Kyle

    Yes I know Halo’s amazing! I think I gave it a sentence but at the time I wrote this I couldn’t really think of anything to write about it.

  • Stripped

    Good Man, It nice to see the young people are discovering Depeche Mode, Im 40’s years old been listening to them since I was 14 back in 1982….
    Spread the message to all the youngsters they are fantastic Live

  • Mary

    Depeche Mode belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their breakthroughs in synth-pop, their superstar status, their enduring music and just because they are so damn good. Love them!

    Their entire catalogue is worthwhile. Would love to see reviews on all of their albums and I liked this review a lot.

  • Steve

    Such a fantastic review, until the bit about the end tracks – Blasphemy! ;-)

    ‘Clean’ is one of the best tracks on the album, along with ‘Halo’. For me personally, you can skip ‘Sweetest Perfection’.

    Fav track :’World In My Eyes’. Dead sexy.