Sixteen years on and this is still the landmark Depeche Mode Album. Since receiving Speak & Spell for Christmas back in 1981, Violator at last gave me the album my peers could not argue with.
I count myself fortunate to have observed the Modes stately rise in stature as it happened. I often wonder what anyone would make of them now if they just received all their albums for the first time. To some who think all their output sounds the same it must all be woefully depressing. But that is often how you might preconceive the work of any band as prolific as Depeche Mode.
However, DM have never had any great plan for world domination. The fact that they were front page NME and Q material by the time this album was released served to demonstrate the enormous fan base they had created through doing simple songs in an innovative way. This uniqueness is the only way to define a Depeche Mode song – there is simply no other contrived formula. To me, their strong lyrics coupled with a huge strata of sound images drove the emotions of my youth and nailed them to my soul.
World in my eyes is a track that provides a thumping soundtrack to every aspect of your life. Full of swagger and menace it manages to relax and antagonize in equal measure – by the end of the track you are on that headlong rush of euphoria that characterizes Alan Wilder at his finest.
Sweetest Perfection? I’m not into Martin’s more exaggerated emotional chants but this one does manage to pound itself into your affections and paves the way for SOFAD 3 years later - and what a great song to give two fingers to your average Radio 1 listener?
Personal Jesus? Oh how I would have loved to have been in America when this hit the Campus – It isn’t just the classy lyrics – it’s the style and composition that drives this song to it’s thumping conclusion.
Halo? Some say the best DM track ever, I don’t agree but there is plenty to enjoy here. A good lyrical content that sweeps through the full range of Gahn Vocals, definitely his finest performance since he Stripped us to the bone on Black Celebration.
Waiting for the night? My personal favorite - a modern paean from Romeo for his Juliet. Throw the windows open on a summer night and crank it up loud!
Enjoy The Silence? I remember Steve Wright playing this for the first time on Radio 1. I did not recognize it as a DM song but when he said ‘I really hate that band’ I knew it was Depeche Mode! And what did Wright know? It even got nominated for a Brit Award for Best Single of 1990 - despite the fact they were still not getting their enormous back catalogue played!
Policy Of Truth? A musical sledgehammer but it’s the lyrics that work here - I have probably muttered them at some time every day ever since. It’s a stunning song, but the remixes could have been so much better!
Blue Dress? Do the Mode do atmosphere? I think so, REM aren't even close. And what about that pervy edge? It’s a real risk for a band in their prime but as ever they carry it off in style.
And so to Clean. This is probably one of the greatest songs ever performed by Depeche Mode. Alan’s composition really coming to the fore here. It's a great way to finish the album.
Looking back, what a great period it was for fans between this album and Songs Of Faith & Devotion. While I would want to say Violator was just another stepping stone for the Mode, their greatest unsung hero was Alan Wilder. Without him they have struggled to reach this level of greatness again.
Alas, to those who are touching on this album for the first time please enjoy. For those who have loved it as I have lets hope Mute dust off it's Archive recording of the World Violation Tour and give the fans the treat they deserve.