It really wasn’t until college when I got exposed to alternative music. Up to my freshman year, I was a relatively Top-40 kind of music listener. Then, in late 1989, when my older brother Mark started tour managing this new band out of Cleveland called Nine Inch Nails, my ears opened up to a whole new trove of music and themes.
A great cross-over record at the time was Depeche Mode’s 1990 album Violator. With a dark but polished sound of industrial electro synth pop (a genre I just made up), it was one of those rare albums that appealed to alternative people as well as pop music fans. For me, it was a gateway drug into a world of black t-shirts, cut-off jeans and Dr. Martens. Within a year of hearing this album and falling hard for the sounds of other “alternative” artists, I was wearing earrings and patchouli. Soon enough, I embarked on a short-lived career as an alternative nightclub and radio DJ in Boston. Violator opened the door to a whole new world.
“Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus” were the big hits. While I also had a soft spot for “Sweetest Perfection” and “Clean,” I always thought Violator was a great album in its entirety. At the time, vinyl records and cassettes were still very much a thing in a fast growing CD market, and there was limited space on an album release. The original release of Violator only had nine tracks on it. Later, some terrific B-sides made it onto expanded digital re-releases, including “Dangerous” and “Sea of Sin.”
This album takes me back to such a specific time. College. With the young kids getting into Kate Bush with the whole “Running Up That Hill” thing happening, I hope the curiosity of younger listeners leads them to discover more great bands and fantastic albums from before their time, like Depeche Mode and Violator.
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