For a long time, Essex boys Depeche Mode found themselves in a strange position when it came to their standing in the UK. Despite achieving almost constant chart success throughout the '80s, critically they were seen as the runts of the synth-pop litter, they were seen as a bit, well, naff. The critics, as if you didn’t know it already, were wrong.
But in the US things were completely different. Depeche Mode, along with the likes of The Cure and New Order, were the hippest of the hip Brit bands, and by the late-'80s were selling out venues with mind-boggling capacities that you could comfortably fit Wembley Stadium into.
At the 80.000 capacity LA Rose Bowl, they recorded the successful live album ’101' in 1988.
The accompanying concert was filmed by DA Pennebaker. the man behind Bob Dylan's 1965 UK tour doc Don't Look Back, thus increasing their cool quotient.
Even the cooler-than-thou critics couldn’t ignore this success - by the time of ’Violator's release. Depeche Mode were finally starting to be taken seriously in Britain, and boy did they deliver when they needed to. The signs were good: the first single to be taken from the record, ’Personal Jesus’, was easily the band's best to date - its twangy blues guitar, hip-hop beats and sleazy lyrics struck a chord with dark lords generations apart: both Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash covered it to great effect in later years.
The follow-up was even more accomplished. ‘Enjoy The Silence', was a stunning ‘there's-nothing-left-but-us’ ballad, epic in both scope and ambition, it was the perfect doublewhammy to silence the naysayers. Both were massive worldwide hits.
‘Violator’ was released in February 1990, and became the band’s biggest album to date, reaching Number Two in their home country. Rightly so - it was a massive progression from the proto-goth of their previous effort. 1987’s 'Music For The Masses’ (also included in this reissue batch, along with the 1981 debut ‘Speak & Spell’). As well as the two titanic singles, there was the funky ‘Policy Of Truth’ and the perky ’World In My Eyes’, both of which also went on to bother the charts. Then, there was the gloom-laden, druggy paranoia of ’The Sweetest Perfection’, the stark beauty of ’Waiting For The Night' and the stately grandeur of 'Halo'; all classics cherished by those partial to a pint of snakebite, but which this time reached a wider audience. Among those listening intently were the aforementioned Manson. Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and The Killers.
And where did they go from this? DM turned into a globe-conquering behemoth with 1993's Songs Of Faith And Devotion', a notably inferior record. But by then they had become a squabbling, dysfunctional unit who only saw each other for work. They got more and more debauched - a fed-up Alan Wilder left in 1995, and frontman Dave Gahan took so many drugs even touring partners Primal Scream couldn't keep up.
He overdosed and nearly died in 1996. After his recovery the band continued, but they’re on a constantly shaky peg. And it’s highly unlikely they'll ever match 'Violator', their one true classic.
1. World in My Eyes
2. Sweetest Perfection
3. Personal Jesus
5. Waiting For The Night
6. Enjoy The Silence
7. Policy Of Truth
8. Blue Dress