Picks and Pans Review: Violator

updated 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Depeche Mode

Like deep-water fish trying out currents near the surface, this usually frigid British synthesizer quartet seems to be exploring something approaching the mainstream.

The record contains "Personal Jesus," which, although mechanical, is palpably hard-hitting, with a snarling slide-guitar sound that recalls vintage Pink Floyd. It's their best song ever. Of course, Depeche Mode's fans, thousands of young adults clad all in black, would probably object strenuously that it's the group's biggest sellout. But the fact is, music without feeling is merely noise. And the lads leave behind enough of their robotic stance on both "Personal Jesus" and "Policy of Truth" to make this a satisfying collection.

"Sweetest Perfection" is off-putting because of David Gahan's sorry attempt at a romantic vocal delivery, but at least its conclusion gives the album one song with a full-bodied rhythmic and instrumental pulse. "Enjoy the Silence" and "Halo" are also enriched, with a strong bass and percussive bottom overwhelming the band's penchant for thin, ethereal synthesizer motifs. At other times, the group resorts to its usual calculated, emotionless and disembodied style, on songs like "World in My Eyes" and "Waiting for the Night."

Ah, well, you can't expect a fish to change it scales entirely. (Sire)

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