100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #32

Depeche Mode – Violator

I’ve played ‘Violator’ to a lot of people and the reports back are pretty diverse. I get “beautiful”, “creepy”, “sleek”, “gloomy”… I even got an “unctuous”, but I never got anything less than “really good” except a “no thanks” from a metal-head with a skate chain and a dire need of anti-dandruff shampoo. Somehow this is a band loved by both dance music veterans and chalk-white goths. Typically it tends to straddle the line between tender and predatory. The verses of ‘World In My Eyes’ might fit into a bog-standard ballad if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re sung by a narrator who has a chilling control over the person he’s talking to. In fact, control seems to be a strong theme, be it in the form of drug addiction (‘Sweetest Perfection’ which sounds like “Nine Inch Nails: The Synthpop Years”), emotional dependance (‘Personal Jesus’) or guilt and shame (‘Halo’). There are moments of untainted emotion though; ‘Enjoy The Silence’ is a perfect saddened love song which sounds like it’s coming from the last two people on earth. The music itself is Depeche Mode – and synth-pop itself – at its glorious peak; moody, atmospheric, emotional with great twisted, cavernous sounds here and there along with (gasp!) guitars, occasionally. You don’t have to take my word for it in this case: at an in-store signing in Los Angeles, 20,000 fans turned up and several were injured being pushed up against the shop windows and I’m pretty sure they weren’t screaming teenage girls; they were real music fans. This belongs in everyone’s collection, no matter what you’re into.
Listen to: Halo

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