Depeche Mode’s “Violator” danceable, well worth wait

By Sean Leary

It’s been two years since Depeche Mode has released a new studio album, but their latest LP, “Violator,” has been well worth the wait.

The album begins with the invitation, “The World In My Eyes,” the lyrics of which are pure Martin Gore messianic metaphor, but with a melodic touch reminiscent of their best work with Vince Clarke.

The same is noticable throughout the album; songs built upon a strong melodic backbone with the synthesizer tricks enhancing the musical structure rather than providing it. The sole exception is the weak second track, “The Sweetest Perfection,” which falls apart, having only a breathy effect to hold up the dense vocals of Dave Gahan.

The rest of the tracks, however, are top notch. “Personal Jesus” boasts a twangy, disjointed melody line galvanizing a strong harmonic and rhythmic backup to perfectly complement the powerful weight of the vocals.

“Halo” and “Enjoy The Silence” are classic Depeche Mode, supporting a dark undertone with a slick dance beat. They’re the kind of songs that hint at being upbeat, but never break into the standard radio pop ‘dominant-chord-power-chorus’ that plagues so many songs.

Depeche Mode’s best work has always seemed to milk minor chords for a bit of hesitant optimism, which is in perfect harmony with the attitude of Martin Gore’s introspective lyrics.

The entire second side is a brilliant seamless testimony to this style, with a few additional atmospheric touches that bring to mind some of the tighter work of Tangerine Dream.

Since the band’s inception in the early eighties, Depeche Mode has steadfastly stuck to it’s original all synthesizer vision. Throughout that time it’s style has wavered from the bouncy, carnivalesque pop of it’s first LP, “Speak and Spell,” to the dark melancholy of “A Broken Frame” to subsequent efforts to merge the two.

“Violator” is their most successful synthesis thus far, mixing infectious dance hooks with moody atmospheric studio trickery.

Conceptually, as well, it ranks as one of their strongest works; religious imagery permeates the lyrics, though leaving it ambiguous as to the source of the inspiration.

The entire album fits together lyrically as a personal journey frought with revelation through social observation and personal introspection.

The LP’s best track, ‘Waiting For The Night’ is a microcosm os the entire work’s success. Building on an anxious rhythm, the vocals are lightly weaved in along with a distant harmony.

As the song gothically drifts along, an uptempo melody works in along with a woodwind sounding effect which both complements and opposes the existing mood. Throughout the song this structure remains, with additional effects laced in, creating a richer musical palette without breaking ties with it’s foundation.

On top of the music, the lyrics to the entire album are some of Gore’s best, each song independant, yet part of a greater conceptual whole.

“Violator” stands as perhaps the Depeche Mode’s finest entire album to date; at the very least on par with their best work. Danceable and catchy, but still retaining their downbeat style. Long time fans will love it, and new fans will get a rich taste of some of the band’s finest work.