The Scratched Record: Violator
In 1986 the Depeche Mode came out of a nightclub drunk and went for a ride to hell itself. That year Black Celebration (Mute Records) came out, the album where they definitely jump into the gloom, where the wires are twisted. Until Some Great Reward (Mute Records), the previous full-length studio, released in 1984, the party had been going on relatively normally. There was sun, pool, drink and young people in bathing suits. I say "relative" because from there you can tell that Martin Gore and his people had been cooking the expedition to the underground. They were at the party, but they weren't dressed the same, and if you asked them "Everything OK?" They nodded confidently, but winked at each other. It was two years later that the blues turned purple, and the vermilion came red.
I already had references from the band. Someone had said to me, "Hey, brat, don't talk shit anymore and listen to Depeche Mode." I did it. I listened to the single version of Personal Jesus, and I cannot explain to you here what it was the anxiety of hearing for the first time that bulky, resounding riff, 300 kilograms of sound in a post-apocalyptic landscape with lightning bolts in the background and orange skies, swaying, orphans, on a rhythmic swing whose chains and rivets always seem to be about to break, but this never happens. This column will spare me if someone who reads right now, without having encountered the subject before, goes, looks for it, reproduces it, and they form the same anxieties that I did that time.
I already had references from the band. Someone had said to me, "Hey, brat, don't talk shit anymore and listen to Depeche Mode." I did it. I listened to the single version of Personal Jesus, and I cannot explain to you here what was the anxiety of hearing for the first time that bulky, resounding riff, 300 kilograms of sound in a post-apocalyptic landscape with lightning bolts in the background and orange skies, swaying, orphans, on top of a rhythmic swing whose chains and rivets always seem to be about to break, but this never happens. This column will spare me if someone who reads right now, without having encountered the subject before, goes, looks for it, reproduces it, and they form the same anxieties that I did that time.
There is a beautiful moment and only a few times repeatable in the life of the listener, which is that of colliding in the song with a style not even sniffed before. When you know, with a Cartesian certainty, very clear and distinctive, that you have never, ever, ever heard something like that. Whether the moment occurs will depend on how far the listener is from the style — consciously or not — and how much of the style is in the song. But when it occurs, the feeling is that a whole work, a whole particular aesthetic fits there in two or three minutes, and that it will last a lifetime. This is what happened to me when Spinetta said: "Early the peach / from the tree fell"; when Charly yells: “They are dead! They are dead! They are dead!"; when Robert Smith sings: “Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand”; and when I heard Personal Jesus.
But before getting there, whoever plays Violator for the first time will have to go through World in My Eyes, where the rhythm is marked by a hollow sampling of what would be the doggy cough of the machines; She must go through the electrical meows that appear from second 42 of Sweetest Perfection; and above all, to meet the voice of the living dead of David Gahan.
Here in the convent everyone imitates someone. Forget those naive little "no, I'm original" speeches. What is that? Original or original. To you what nobody has hunted the account in the necklace of mimesis. Of course there are people who breathe another type of oxygen, and detect the umami flavor while you and I do not go beyond the sweet and the salty. They're, well, the usual special people, the Thom Yorkes and Ornette Colemans of the world. But in his gestures, no matter how avant-garde they may be, an intention of originality is not discovered (although there really is, notice). An artist can only be original as long as he doesn't feel like being so; otherwise your train will have stopped at one of the most populous and ridiculous stations: the pujada vanguard. A lot of great people have fallen there, don't believe it. Cortázar wrote a novel that is read in two different ways; Lars von Trier, in Nymphomaniac, completely misrepresents the characterization of a character who had worked for, not one, two movies! To ensure the final impact and remain Lars von Trier, the Danish groundbreaking; and our left-handed monster Santiago Feliú says "dimensionally different", which as you can see is a very ugly construction but it sounds cultured and shocks the university classrooms. Returning to the trill, Stone Temple Pilots imitates Pearl Jam and Pearl Jam to Sonic Youth. Melendi imitates Ricardo Arjona, Arjona to Sabina, Sabina to Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan, well… I'm not going to get in there, God, it must be. Well, I have not found who David Gahan imitates, neither in the territory of men, nor in that of Zeus, nor in that of Hades. There is no record so far of another voice like that. I'm going to think it's not real, that it's another noise from the synthesizers, and David just moves his lips, he bends, like Milli Vanilli.
One of the best kept secrets by Depeche Mode is the separation in the background of rhythmic and harmonic discourses. Whoever is not doing anything right now, go to the sixth and seventh tracks, Enjoy The Silence and Policy of Truth. If you leave nothing but the rhythmic dimension of these songs, you can start dancing without much conflict. Now, it is enough for a chord to sound and you return to your chair immediately, with the regret of a custodian at six in the morning. Rhythm and harmony only make a chorus in a first reading, and that is why the band works on the dance floor, but if you scratch the sheet just a little, you know that the language of rhythm is directed to a subject, and that of harmony to other. The same if we say that one speaks the language of the body and the other the language of the soul.
You don't have to pay much attention to the lyrics to enjoy this album. Depeche Mode is not that kind of experience. The whole package is always better, obviously, but what I'm saying is that the earthquake here is not produced by words. The thing about the British group is that nobody has ever heard or will hear something like that. There is no, in the sound web of the world, an aesthetic direction equal to Depeche Mode. And in those conditions, the lyrics, logically, lose relevance. That said, the album contains very accomplished lyrical passages, like this: "You wear guilt like a halo in reverse."
Violator should not be heard once, not twice, not three, and that's it. It must be scanned. After learning the melodies, which are floating on the surface, they break down all the accessory noises. In Blue Dress, for example, I don't know if I like the theme more than the keyboard phrase of the outro. It's a strange melody that one. It is in an area between sweetness and fear, which are two distant areas, but, I don't know how, the Essex people invented a Eurotunnel that brings them closer together. Despite this, I don't like the overexploitation of the outro instrumental very well on the album. Of nine tracks (I'm talking about the first edition, from 1990, which ends in Clean) it is used in five, which reduces its uniqueness. Excessive repetition of this tool causes the listener to question the inevitability of its use. Expressive tactics, as is known, are the ways of materializing discourse in communicative processes such as music; and there are many, of course. But the use of a specific resource is only justified if the receiver swallows the tupe that only in this way can the speech be delivered. It's a "fool me I like". By repeating the trick so much, Depeche Mode makes it trivial, and the listener does not perceive it inescapable, which is what should happen. Más información sobre este texto de origenPara obtener más información sobre la traducción, se necesita el texto de origen
Well, I left, the alarm already sounded. Hear this, sir. If you don't believe me, and you know a British Gen X, ask him what was going on in London nightclubs in the late '80s, when everyone was having the most fun exchanging secretions and suddenly a DJ accomplice played that of "Reach out and touch faith!".
Carlos M. Mérida
Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.