35 Albums in 35 Years: 1990

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


depechemode1990: Depeche Mode’s Violator

I’ve never done heroin before. Never tried it. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it before, and there was a time when I used to hang out with some less than reputable characters, but it never showed up, not once, not even in the heart of my old party days. And I don’t want to do it. No desire to. That drug has destroyed far too many of my musical heroes. Now, maybe there was a time years ago when I would have considered giving it a go, but those days are long over. I’ve grown up a lot since then. So, it’s never going to happen…

…But if it did, I would probably listen to Depeche Mode’s 1990 opus Violator while doing it.

There are all kinds of different albums out there: love records, break-up records political records, party records, light drug records (the kind of albums you do drugs to), heavy drug records (the kind of albums that you lament your drug use to), and so on and so forth. Violator falls somewhere in between those last two, albeit with a blend of perverted, S&M, guilt-ridden immorality in the mix. “World in My Eyes” essentially opens the album with an invitation to debauchery, a request to accompany a drug and sex laden evening/weekend/lifetime. From there, the record moves through a series of lows and highs, touching on ugliness and beauty, pleasure and pain, cockiness and uncertainty, eventually culminating into regret…though knowing full well that the cycle will begin again in earnest on album closer “Clean.”

Violator is the first Depeche Mode album I remember hearing, and even at 11 or 12 years old, I remember feeling that it sounded dark and sexy, but ultimately foreboding as well. The breathtaking and beautifully shot music videos for album singles “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy the Silence” by photographer/director Anton Corbijn further lured me into the fold. And I couldn’t get enough of the lushness the band got out of their sound working with producer/engineer Flood. Violator sounds bigger and fuller than any of their previous efforts, and was certainly a statement to kick off the band’s second decade. My intro to Depeche Mode would later send me further down the musical well, tapping my interest in synth-pop, electronic music, industrial, darkwave, and Goth. And my excitement for dark, synthetic music was born.

Also, if there was ever a time in my life when I thought it might be okay to wear tight leather pants or fishnet shirts, this was it. Violator brought on the beginning of that phase (one that would continue to tempt me throughout the early/mid 90’s thanks to Trent Reznor). Fortunately for everybody, I never succumbed. The jeans/t-shirt model I’d employed throughout my youth maintained and endured.

Unfortunately, and this is just my opinion, but Depeche Mode peaked with this album. The band’s output would just never quite achieve the same heights (or hits) ever again. But their sound is wholly evident in any number of young, upstart bands. Darkwave, industrial, synth-pop is back, lurking in the underground, pulsing under the radar, inspiring moody, impressionable kids everywhere, just as it did 25 years ago. Maybe one of these days, one of these new groups or artists will top the masters. But I doubt it.

On a side note, when I was in the 10th grade, my friend and I were in a car accident while listening to Violator on his car stereo. We took a curve going way too fast on an icy road and slammed into a curb, jarring us both, knocking the wheels from the car, and messing up the whole passenger side of the vehicle. I remember that immediately following the accident, after the smoke cleared and the dust settled, my primary concern was getting my CD free from that stereo. It was stuck, and I freaked out for a few minutes. Eventually I got the disc out of there.

And on one last note, don’t do heroin.

- Favorite song: “Enjoy the Silence”
– Runner up: “Halo”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: The Pixies’ Bossanova; Queensryche’s Empire; They Might Be Giants’ Flood; Sonic Youth’s Goo; Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss; Naked City’s Naked City.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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