I was born in 1980 and had two older sisters. So while that means I was too young to ‘get’ music while the decade was happening live, my sisters made sure I was exposed to plenty of it anyway. Being born in 1980 also means that my really formative music years occurred in the 90s. And for some reason, the second the clock struck midnight and January first 1990 was here, the whole world seemed intent on making fun of everything about the 80s, whether it deserved it or not. And while a lot of the decade deserved the fun making, plenty of good stuff got lost in it a frey. For me, at least anyway.
For a long, long time, I assumed bands like Joy Division and New Order were cheesy pop crap, purely because the existed in the same decade as so much genuine cheesy pop crap, like Right Said Fred and Betty Boo, so famous for doin’ the do. Even now, I know Duran Duran is seen as a pretty great band who did plenty of interesting things, but their association with the 80s makes it hard for me to remember that, or ever actually listen to their music. Another victim of this is Depeche Mode. They have a solid reputation, yet I have never once in my life consciously chosen to listen a single one of their songs. Until today, when I listened to Violator.
Technically, World in My Eyes and Sweetest Perfection do sound like the 80s. The instrumentation, the studio slickness, the oh so earnest vocals. All of these ingredients were used to make some of the absolute worst drivel the decade had to offer. But it’s songs like these, and bands like Depeche Mode, that make you realise it could be done well. And that bands like this did it so well, countless others copied it, and got chart success, despite the shittiness of their copies.
After the brooding cool of Personal Jesus, Violator flirts with going over the edge and into 80s parody territory with the synth-tastic Halo. An instrumental version of this song would make the perfect soundtrack to the story telling intro of a 16-bit Terminator 2 game on the Sega Megadrive.
If anything on this record approaches optimistic and bright, it’s Policy of Truth. Still dark and a little dystopian, it’s a cheery smile and bed of roses compared to the darkness that populates the majority of Violator. A statement immediately supported by Blue Dress. How do bleeps and bloops become so morose? And none of that is to say I don’t like it. Because I really do like it. It’s just not a record I’d put on if I wanted to cheer up. It’s a record I’d put on if I wanted wallow in a bad mood.