Depeche Mode this weekend, from their World Violation Tour, supporting their seventh album release, Violator which came out on March 19,1990.
In a contemporary review for Melody Maker, music critic Paul Lester called Violator the group’s “most arresting work to date.” Tim Nicholson of Record Mirror was enthused by the stripped-down quality of the songs and called the album a “compromise between pop music and something a little more sinister. There are no noises out of place in this perfectly formed void”. Ian Cranna of Q magazine found the music subtly clever and called it “a fine record which may not set the world on fire but deserves to singe it a bit.” NME writer Helen Mead felt that the album “seems almost a step back, in that it’s cleaner, sparser, more clinical” than Music for the Masses, but concluded that “there is security in the knowledge that everything is very clear cut in Depeche Mode’s blue and white world.” In a less enthusiastic review, Robert Christgau said that Depeche Mode conceded to fickle teenage demographics on Violator. Rolling Stone magazine’s Chuck Eddy said that, despite its “ambient charm”, Gahan sounds “slimy and self-involved”, and in their attempt to make listeners dance, Depeche Mode “revert to morose pop psychology and then never tell you how come they’re so sad.” Entertainment Weekly’s Greg Sandow felt that the album’s varied music can “cast shadows, the significance of which can be hard to figure out”.
In 2003, Violator was ranked number 342 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and number 57 on the magazine’s 100 Best Albums of the Nineties list. It has also featured on lists of the greatest albums of all time made by publications such as Q and Spin. In a retrospective review, The Austin Chronicle’s Christopher Gray cited Violator as Depeche Mode’s “career peak”, while The Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey called it the band’s best album, “encasing Martin Gore’s favourite tropes – guilt, salvation, obsession and the virtues of keeping your mouth shut – in production as black and shiny as a beetle’s shell.” Rolling Stone complimented its “heavier hooks, cinematic arrangements and sleek sonic detail”. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called the album “a quintessential benchmark of pop, rock and electronic music.” It is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
As a sign of their rising popularity when Violator was released, a signing party for fans at a Wherehouse record store in Los Angeles that was expected to draw only a few thousand fans ended up drawing around 17,000. The band were forced to withdraw from the event due to security concerns, and their early exit nearly caused a riot. Violator reached number 17 on the Billboard 200 year-end chart of 1990, and was the first Depeche Mode album to sell a million copies in the United States.
The success of Violator introduced the band to a wider audience, and this increased exposure led to their 1993 follow-up album Songs of Faith and Devotion debuting atop the charts in both the United States and United Kingdom. “Before this, we’d been going along quite nicely,” recalled Andy Fletcher. “Then when it came to Violator we inexplicably went huge. It was just incredible, and in many ways we never really recovered from that. After that, we just felt like we wanted to muck it up a bit.”
Here is their concert from Dodger Stadium, recorded by the band sound engineers on August 4, 1990 – also included in the last half (due to technical problems) is their performance from Shoreline Amphitheatre, in San Francisco on July 21, 1990.
Crank it up and enjoy.