The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Sweetest Perfection: Depeche Mode's Violator 20 Years On
Emily Bick , April 19th, 2010 09:30

Two decades on from its release, Emily Bick remembers how as a teenager in Mall America, Violator was a record that spoke of sex with style, and paved the way for Twilight

Listen to Violator on Spotify

My first band t-shirt was a Depeche Mode shirt, bought in the summer of 1990, when I was 13 and Violator ruled the world. I can't find the exact picture that was on the front of it online, but it looked a lot like this:

I was damn proud of that shirt and wore it everywhere: at home, at the mall, at the library where I helped out with the kids' summer reading programme, giving them day-glo stickers for books they read and making suggestions. I was wearing it over my swimsuit at the pool when some older dude looked me up and down, made a face, and asked, "Is that a New Kids on the Block t-shirt" Later, at the library, some little kid asked me the same question.

Well, ouch. But it wasn't an unreasonable mistake, look at this: And anyway, it's not like wearing a shirt of a band with an album that was soon to go multi-platinum was all that radical. I'd used some money from babysitting to buy my shirt from Sam Goody (like the US version of Our Price) in the mall, and it was on a rack with the Madonnas and Guns and Roses and NKOTBs. Both Depeche Mode and NKOTB filled stadiums across the states that summer; during June and July, their respective World Violation and Magic Summer tours would have rolled into town within days of each other. They probably even used the same hotel suites and backstage bathrooms.

So, similar levels of fame, similar photos, where was the insult? There was no way to articulate it at the time, but it was all about sex. How else to explain all the girls at school with their giant 3" badges from Claire's and their key rings, bandannas, sleeping bags and scribbled-on notebooks devoted to a bunch of stage school guidos who danced like marionettes? There was something about how NKOTB all smiled angelically for all the pin-up magazines that was just gross: first off, everyone knew that whatever innocent lines they spewed to Tiger Beat about liking pizza and not having found the perfect girl yet (implying that, yes, dear reader, it could be you!) they were most likely cherry-picking roadie-tested fans for coke and kegger orgies after each show. The other options for chart-inspired lust were all hair metallers, waggling their spandex-coated codpieces packed with crotch rot, and they were gross for obvious reasons. But either way, as a young female fan, you could only play into this as a wannabe groupie who bought band merch to ease the statistically likely frustration of not getting any.

But Depeche Mode you could have an erotic fixation on that...

...The full version of this article is available in Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Music Anthology. Buy it now in the Amazon Kindle store.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.