Review Summary: Foot thumping and thought provoking.
When it comes to my preference in music, technicality and instrumental prowess can only go so far. There comes a time where complexity and guitar solos wear thin. To me, the best music is when both can be combined; where provocative themes and lyrics can combine with well written progressions to make an overall better package. Some genres can more or less get away with having lackluster lyrics within the music itself. Electronica and dance-themed music is one of them. There are few bands within the genre that can truly accomplish thought-provoking verses while also offering something worthy of a dance floor. But there are few bands that luckily combine both of these elements and come away with a better overall sound. Depeche Mode is one of them, with their 1990’s Violator a prime example.
If one were to analyze the music of Depeche Mode in isolation, they would find themselves a more beat-driven, dance-oriented group. The core of most of the songs featured on Violator are electonica based. But that is certainly not the full sound of Depeche Mode. The band steers away from blatant and extravagant synth to rule the songs, and instead meshes the computer-generated loops with rock instrumentation. Live drums and bass licks assist whatever synth is leading the song. What is produced is a very subtle, balanced and fun hybrid of sound that utilizes the charms of both genres to make a splendid array of both styles.
As mentioned earlier, most bands within the dance genre rely on catchy hooks and beat-driven structure and focus not on interesting lyrics or themes. This is where Depeche Mode stand out. The music of Violator would hint toward a band that does fall into a category of brainless lyrics, but nothing is more to the contrary. The music is littered with different themes such as the allure of lust,(World In My Eyes) the power of control,(Policy Of Truth) the manipulation of religion,(Personal Jesus) human ignorance,(Enjoy The Silence) as well as many other profound lyrical concepts. All of them are delivered in a very provocative first person, and give the songs a more meaningful punch because of it.
A definite issue with Violator is the length of it. The album is composed of a mere 9 songs. The average lengths of each song usually do not exceed 4 minutes, which means the overall running time is unfortunately short. What almost makes up for the shortage of songs is the relative consistency of quality within them. World In My Eyes has a very cool sheik to it, using its broken rhythm and bouncing synth to great effect. Clean is deservedly captivating, that puts a strong finale on the album. Waiting For The Night has a serene, subdued instrumentation and vocal delivery that is done in such perfection that it makes it the album’s top song. Although some songs are near mediocrity, none of them are truly bad.
Despite the brilliance of the aforementioned songs, the album itself does tend to become repetitive. The tracks are consistent in quality, but are also consistent in feel and vibe, which becomes an problem. The songs may be well written and delivered in an intelligent manner, but after a while Violator becomes homogeneous. The atmosphere and instrumental approach are copied in most of the songs, and the overall feel of the album becomes redundant. This unfortunately leads to the songs suffering as well. Listened alone, every song will show the interesting hybrid of genres and well thought out lyrics, but played through in the album, the repetition wears down the former sheik and interesting feel over time.
What Depeche Mode achieve with Violator is a very fun album that has undeniable depth. It is true that the album’s atmosphere becomes unfortunately similar and uniform, but their masterful fusion of electronica and rock is something to be impressed by. The lyrics of Depeche Mode have interesting takes on human nature, and the culture of society, something that not many dance groups can boast. So the next time I want to bob my head as well as stroke my mustache, Violator will do nicely.
World In My Eyes
Waiting For The Night*
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