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1990's masterpiece and the Mode's peak...,
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This review is from: Violator [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
Following the success of the film and soundtrack to '101', the Mode set about its follow-up after some brief side projects (Martin Gore's covers-e.p., Wilder's Recoil project)- the 1989 single 'Personal Jesus' (later covered by Johnny Cash and Marilyn Manson - not at the same time sadly!)being the initial release and a pervy-pop song that blended the devotional and the dirty in a manner as great as Madonna's 'Like a Prayer.'
'Violator' (a deliberately Spinal Tap style title!) was the conclusion of the Mode's European outlook, the contribution of Francois Kevorkian aligned it to the electronic past of Kraftwerk and Moroder. 'World in My Eyes' (the fourth single released) opens the LP, a minimal electronic pop song that is Andy Fletcher's favourite Mode track. 'Sweetest Perfection' is the first of Martin Gore's lead vocals, blending bluesy guitar with electronics - setting the tone for 'Personal Jesus' and live favourite 'Halo' - the latter is one of Gore's greatest pop-songs and should have been a single (especially with the hilarious promo they shot found on 'Strange Too').
Following these highs we shift into the epic electronic ballad 'Waiting for the Night' which finds Gahan alone in an artificial universe until Gore supplies some harmonies: pure machine-soul. The sequencing on 'Black Celebration' and 'Music for the Masses' is advanced on here - the latter four tracks are generally linked together by smaller pieces of music - we move from 'Waiting for the Night' to Top 5 hit 'Enjoy the Silence' - a key song in the Mode's back catalogue and single of the year at the Brits the following year (not that they bothered to turn up!). '...Silence' is followed by 'Policy of Truth' (the third single)- an anthemic track later covered by some grunge band I've forgotten the name of!
The album concludes on a darker note, Gore's second lead vocal 'Blue Dress' drifts between a sensitive 'Somebody'-style ballad and something more sinister. The model for later Gore-fronted tracks such as 'Home', 'Comatose', 'Damaged People' and 'Macro.' Finally there is 'Clean', which opens with electronics that recall Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Yellow Magic Orchestra before shifting into a downbeat anthem in which Gahan unconvincingly sings "I'm the cleanest I've been..." - kind of at odds with his infamous addictions and issues that followed...
As with the 'Speak & Spell' and 'Music for the Masses' reissues, this is a twin disc set with the album on DVD/A in 5.1 and stereo (my original copy of 'Violator' on CD sounds terrible on my mp3 player...a more than welcome reissue).There is another audio feature (the Mode and co exploiting the possibilities of this new format wonderfully) like the other two reissues and several bonus tracks. These are basically b-sides of the singles - 'Dangerous' is a fair enough pop-song that was the flipside of 'Personal Jesus', while instrumentals 'Memphisto' and 'Sibeling' were on 'Enjoy the Silence.' Another instrumental 'Kaleid' ('Policy of Truth') was used as the intro to the 'World Violation' tour and the final two songs ('Happiest Girl' and 'Sea of Sin') featured on the 'World in My Eyes' single from Autumn 1990. All nice additions, but 'Kaleid' apart nothing as great as the album proper...(& tracks most Mode fans are likely to posess on several formats already!)
'Violator' was the Mode's peak I feel - follow-up 'Songs of Faith & Devotion' had a flawed production (sort of grungey-'Achtung Baby!') and the two albums that followed were patchy ('Playing the Angel' is more succesful). 'Violator' was the pinnacle of the Mode's achievment, building on the fine 'Construction Time Again'/'Some Great Reward' and fellow masterpieces 'Black Celebration' and 'Music for the Masses.' What's great here is that the Mode stayed true to themselves and released an LP that was naturally them - no trying to be Alice in Chains or Nirvana here! It's also a great collection of pop-songs that show how great the pop-song was before the return to the 50s style of recent years (though of course Girls Aloud and Sugababes have Mode-elements in their music thanks to Richard X!). 'Violator' is the best Mode album and one of the classic albums of the early 1990s alongside 'Chill Out', 'Heaven or Las Vegas', 'Fear of a Black Planet', 'Loveless', 'Behaviour', 'Blue Lines' & 'Selected Ambient Works I.' What more can I say?