February 22, 1990



alternative rock/ electronica



Album Tracks:

  1. World in My Eyes
  2. Sweetest Perfection
  3. Personal Jesus
  4. Halo
  5. Waiting for the Night
  6. Enjoy the Silence
  7. Policy of Truth
  8. Blue Dress
  9. Clean

Sales (in millions):




Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Personal Jesus (8/29/89) #28 US, #13 UK, #3 MR, sales: 0.5 m, air: 1.0 m
  • Enjoy the Silence (2/5/90) #8 US, #6 UK, #1 MR, sales: 0.5 m, air: 2.0 m
  • Policy of Truth (4/28/90) #15 US, #16 UK, #1 MR, air: 1.0 m
  • Halo (8/11/90) #21 MR
  • World in My Eyes (9/22/90) #17 UK, #17 MR





Depeche Mode


Violator was Depeche Mode’s “most mainstream chart-climbing album” AZ and, “the crowning glory of the boys’ black-leather period” RS as far as many DM fans are concerned. It “is a quintessential benchmark of pop, rock and electronic music…because it [seamlessly] marries dance, goth-rock and synth-pop with good ol’ fashioned Motown funk and rock n’ roll.” SL

The group originally came out of the new romantic period in the early ‘80s, but soon veered toward a darker sound. Violator “continued in the general vein of the previous two studio efforts by Depeche Mode: Martin Gore’s upfront lyrical emotional extremism and knack for a catchy hook filtered through Alan Wilder’s ear for perfect arrangements, ably assisted by top English producer Flood,” AMG who also produced and engineered albums for U2, Erasure, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. TB Violator “it was slicker and more accessible than the band’s previous efforts” SL and “song for song…[is] simply the best, most consistent effort yet from the band.” AMG It was “heavily influenced by techno-pop” AZ with half of the tracks “tailor-made for the dance floor.” AZ It was “conceived when dance-club DJs were gaining recognition alongside original composers.” AZ

Lead single Personal Jesus was “the group’s most striking single yet” TB yet was also “the unlikeliest of pop hits.” SL It is “a cynical jab at organized religion and televangelism.” SL Musically, it as “perversely simplistic, with a stiff, arcane funk/hip-hop beat and basic blues guitar chords, and tremendous, thanks to sharp production touches and David Gahan’s echoed, snaky vocals.” AMG “The bluesy guitar line Martin Gore lays down on top of the synth-dominated grooves” AZ is “a particular highlight on this fantastic album.” AZ

Enjoy the Silence was “a nothing-else-remains-but-us ballad pumped up into a huge, dramatic romance/dance number, commanding in its mock orchestral/choir scope.” AMG It remains the group’s only U.S. top ten pop hit. “Beneath its grand synth-pop exterior, though, lay a gloomy pessimism that’s strung throughout the whole of Violator,” SL “like a corpse with a passionate pulse.” ZS

Third single Policy of Truth was “a low-key Motown funk number for the modern day with a sharp love/hate lyric to boot.” AMG A “theme of lies and consequence continue, but this time Gahan/Gore is less compassionate than he is outright jaded: ‘You’ll see your problems multiplied/ If you continually decide/ To faithfully pursue/ The policy of truth.’” SL

“The shuffling beat of Sweetest Perfection (well sung by Gore)” AMG “intertwines sex and addiction” SL and “the guilt-ridden-and-loving-it Halo build[s] into a string-swept pounder.” AMG “When Gahan takes the mic, it’s hard to believe he didn’t write the words coming out of his mouth: ‘You wear guilt…like a halo in reverse.’” SL

On World in My Eyes, “chief songwriter Martin Gore’s voice pads lead vocalist Dave Gahan’s, and then quickly mimes him.” SL That song, as well as “Sweetest Perfection” and “Halo”, “turn teen angst and sexual obsession into grand synth-pop melodrama.” RS

The ethereal Waiting for the NightAMG features “cyclical tinkling bleeps and a minimalist pulsing backbeat percolat[ing] underneath layered voices and haunting vocal harmonies.” SL The “electronic swing number” SL Blue Dress “is at once profoundly sad, sexy and creepy, as Gore croons ‘put it on’ (referring to the titular dress) repeatedly throughout. ‘Something so worthless serves a purpose,’ he sings. ‘It makes me a happy man.’” SL

“The cinematic final track” SLClean wraps up Violator on an eerie note, all ominous bass notes and odd atmospherics carrying the song. Goth without ever being stupidly hammy, synth without sounding like the clinical stereotype of synth music, rock without ever sounding like a ‘rock’ band, Depeche here reach astounding heights indeed.” AMG “No other Depeche Mode album has been this captivating and sophisticated.” SL It “remains the group’s defining work.” TB

Review Source(s):

  • AMG All Music Guide review by Ned Raggett
  • AZ review by Beth Bessmer
  • RS Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • SL Slant Magazine’s Vital Pop: 50 Essential Pop Albums by Sal Cinquemani (6/30/03).
  • TB Thunder Bay Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. (2005). Page 253.
  • ZS Zagat Survey Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. (2003).

Related DMDB Link(s):

Personal Jesus (video)

Enjoy the Silence (video)

Policy of Truth (video)

Halo (video)

World in My Eyes (video)

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Last updated February 21, 2012.