Violator. Diseño: Jennifer Ancízar / Magazine AM:PM.
Violator. Diseño: Jennifer Ancízar / Magazine AM:PM.

The Scratched Record: Violator

8 minutos / Carlos M. Mérida

19.11.2020 / Worn-out record,  Reviews

En 1986 los Depeche Mode salieron borrachos de una discoteca y se fueron a dar un paseo al mismísimo infierno. Ese año salió Black Celebration (Mute Records), el disco donde saltan definitivamente hacia la penumbra, donde se tuercen los alambres. Hasta Some Great Reward (Mute Records), anterior larga duración de estudio, lanzado en 1984, la fiesta se venía realizando con relativa normalidad. Había sol, piscina, bebida y jóvenes en traje de baño. Digo “relativa” porque ya desde ahí se nota que Martin Gore y los suyos venían cocinando la expedición al underground. Estaban en el convite, pero no vestían igual, y si les preguntabas “¿Todo OK?” asentían con seguridad, pero entre ellos se guiñaban el ojo. Fue dos años después cuando los azules se volvieron violetas, y rojos vino los bermellones.

I already had references from the band. Someone had said to me, "Hey, brat, don't talk shit anymore and listen to Depeche Mode." I did it. I listened to the single version of Personal Jesus, and I cannot explain to you here what it was the anxiety of hearing for the first time that bulky, resounding riff, 300 kilograms of sound in a post-apocalyptic landscape with lightning bolts in the background and orange skies, swaying, orphans, on a rhythmic swing whose chains and rivets always seem to be about to break, but this never happens. This column will spare me if someone who reads right now, without having encountered the subject before, goes, looks for it, reproduces it, and they form the same anxieties that I did that time.

Ya tenía referencias de la banda. Alguien me había dicho: “Oiga, mocoso, no hable más mierda y escuche Depeche Mode”. Lo hice. Escuché la versión single de Personal Jesus, y no puedo explicarles yo aquí lo que fue la zozobra de oír por vez primera ese riff abultado, rotundo, 300 kilogramos de sonido en un paisaje post-apocalíptico con rayos al fondo y cielos anaranjados, balanceándose, huérfanos, encima de un columpio rítmico cuyas cadenas y remaches parecen siempre estar a punto de romperse, pero esto nunca llega a ocurrir. A mí esta columna me va a sobrar si alguien que lee ahora mismo, sin haberse encontrado con el tema antes, va, lo busca, lo reproduce, y se le forman las mismas ansiedades que a mí esa vez.

There is a beautiful moment and only a few times repeatable in the life of the listener, which is that of colliding in the song with a style not even sniffed before. When you know, with a Cartesian certainty, very clear and distinctive, that you have never, ever, ever heard something like that. Whether the moment occurs will depend on how far the listener is from the style — consciously or not — and how much of the style is in the song. But when it occurs, the feeling is that a whole work, a whole particular aesthetic fits there in two or three minutes, and that it will last a lifetime. This is what happened to me when Spinetta said: "Early the peach / from the tree fell"; when Charly yells: “They are dead! They are dead! They are dead!"; when Robert Smith sings: “Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand”; and when I heard Personal Jesus.

Pero antes de llegar ahí, quien tantee Violator por primera vez tendrá que pasar por World in My Eyes, donde el ritmo es marcado por un sampleo hueco de lo que vendría a ser la tos perruna de las máquinas; deberá atravesar los maullidos eléctricos que aparecen a partir del segundo 42 de Sweetest Perfection; y sobre todas las cosas, encontrarse con la voz de muerto vivo de David Gahan.

Aquí en el convento todo el mundo imita a alguien. Olvídense de esos discursitos cándidos de “no, yo soy original”. ¿Qué es eso? Original ni original. A usted lo que nadie le ha cazado la cuenta en el collar de las mímesis. Claro que hay gente que respira otro tipo de oxígeno, y detecta el sabor umami mientras tú y yo no pasamos del dulce y el salado. Son, bueno, la gente especial de siempre, los Thom Yorke y los Ornette Coleman del mundo. Pero en sus gestos, por muy vanguardistas que sean, no se descubre una intención de originalidad (aunque realmente la haya, fíjense). Un artista solo podrá ser original mientras no se le noten las ganas de serlo; de lo contrario su tren se habrá detenido en una de las estaciones más populosas del ridículo: la vanguardia pujada. Ahí ha caído mucha gente buenísima, no se crean. Cortázar escribió una novela que se lee de dos formas distintas; Lars von Trier, en Nymphomaniac, desdice completamente la caracterización de un personaje que había trabajado durante, no una, ¡dos películas!, para asegurarse el impacto final y seguir siendo Lars von Trier, el rompedor danés; y nuestro monstruo zurdo Santiago Feliú dice “dimensionalmente distintos”, que como ven es una construcción feísima pero suena culto y conmociona las aulas universitarias. Volviendo al trillo, Stone Temple Pilots imita a Pearl Jam y Pearl Jam a Sonic Youth. Melendi imita a Ricardo Arjona, Arjona a Sabina, Sabina a Bob Dylan y Bob Dylan, bueno… no me voy a meter ahí, a Dios, debe ser. Pues bien, no he encontrado a quién imita David Gahan, ni en el territorio de los hombres, ni en el de Zeus, ni en el de Hades. No hay registro hasta ahora de otra voz como esa. Estoy por pensar que no es real, que es otro ruido de los sintetizadores, y David solo mueve los labios, dobla, como Milli Vanilli. 1814/5000 Here in the convent everyone imitates someone. Forget those naive little "no, I'm original" speeches. What is that? Original or original. To you what nobody has hunted the account in the necklace of mimesis. Of course there are people who breathe another type of oxygen, and detect the umami flavor while you and I do not go beyond the sweet and the salty. They're, well, the usual special people, the Thom Yorkes and Ornette Colemans of the world. But in his gestures, no matter how avant-garde they may be, an intention of originality is not discovered (although there really is, notice). An artist can only be original as long as he doesn't feel like being so; otherwise your train will have stopped at one of the most populous and ridiculous stations: the pujada vanguard. A lot of great people have fallen there, don't believe it. Cortázar wrote a novel that is read in two different ways; Lars von Trier, in Nymphomaniac, completely misrepresents the characterization of a character who had worked for, not one, two movies! To ensure the final impact and remain Lars von Trier, the Danish groundbreaking; and our left-handed monster Santiago Feliú says "dimensionally different", which as you can see is a very ugly construction but it sounds cultured and shocks the university classrooms. Returning to the trill, Stone Temple Pilots imitates Pearl Jam and Pearl Jam to Sonic Youth. Melendi imitates Ricardo Arjona, Arjona to Sabina, Sabina to Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan, well… I'm not going to get in there, God, it must be. Well, I have not found who David Gahan imitates, neither in the territory of men, nor in that of Zeus, nor in that of Hades. There is no record so far of another voice like that. I'm going to think it's not real, that it's another noise from the synthesizers, and David just moves his lips, he bends, like Milli Vanilli.

One of the best kept secrets by Depeche Mode is the separation in the background of rhythmic and harmonic discourses. Whoever is not doing anything right now, go to the sixth and seventh tracks, Enjoy The Silence and Policy of Truth. If you leave nothing but the rhythmic dimension of these songs, you can start dancing without much conflict. Now, it is enough for a chord to sound and you return to your chair immediately, with the regret of a custodian at six in the morning. Rhythm and harmony only make a chorus in a first reading, and that is why the band works on the dance floor, but if you scratch the sheet just a little, you know that the language of rhythm is directed to a subject, and that of harmony to other. The same if we say that one speaks the language of the body and the other the language of the soul.

You don't have to pay much attention to the lyrics to enjoy this album. Depeche Mode is not that kind of experience. The whole package is always better, obviously, but what I'm saying is that the earthquake here is not produced by words. The thing about the British group is that nobody has ever heard or will hear something like that. There is no, in the sound web of the world, an aesthetic direction equal to Depeche Mode. And in those conditions, the lyrics, logically, lose relevance. That said, the album contains very accomplished lyrical passages, like this: "You wear guilt like a halo in reverse."

Violator no debe ser escuchado una vez, ni dos, ni tres, y ya. Debe ser tomografiado. Después de aprenderse las melodías, que están flotando en la superficie, desmenucen todos los ruidos accesorios. En Blue Dress, por ejemplo, no sé si me gusta más el tema que la frase de teclados del outro. Es una melodía extraña esa. Está en una zona entre la dulzura y el miedo, que son dos zonas lejanas, pero, no sé cómo, los de Essex se inventaron un Eurotúnel que las acerca. A pesar de esto, no me cae muy bien en el álbum la sobreexplotación del outro instrumental. De nueve pistas (estoy hablando de la primera edición, de 1990, que termina en Clean) se utiliza en cinco, lo cual le resta singularidad. La reiteración excesiva de esa herramienta provoca que el oyente cuestione la inevitabilidad de su uso. Las tácticas expresivas, como se sabe, son las vías de materialización del discurso en los procesos comunicativos como la música; y hay muchas, claro. Pero el empleo de un recurso específico solo se justifica si el receptor se traga el tupe de que solo de ese modo el discurso puede ser emitido. Es un “engáñame que me gusta”. Al repetir tanto el truco, Depeche Mode lo banaliza, y el oyente no lo percibe ineludible, que es lo que debería ocurrir. 1251/5000 Violator should not be heard once, not twice, not three, and that's it. It must be scanned. After learning the melodies, which are floating on the surface, they break down all the accessory noises. In Blue Dress, for example, I don't know if I like the theme more than the keyboard phrase of the outro. It's a strange melody that one. It is in an area between sweetness and fear, which are two distant areas, but, I don't know how, the Essex people invented a Eurotunnel that brings them closer together. Despite this, I don't like the overexploitation of the outro instrumental very well on the album. Of nine tracks (I'm talking about the first edition, from 1990, which ends in Clean) it is used in five, which reduces its uniqueness. Excessive repetition of this tool causes the listener to question the inevitability of its use. Expressive tactics, as is known, are the ways of materializing discourse in communicative processes such as music; and there are many, of course. But the use of a specific resource is only justified if the receiver swallows the tupe that only in this way can the speech be delivered. It's a "fool me I like". By repeating the trick so much, Depeche Mode makes it trivial, and the listener does not perceive it inescapable, which is what should happen.

Well, I left, the alarm already sounded. Hear this, sir. If you don't believe me, and you know a British Gen X, ask him what was going on in London nightclubs in the late '80s, when everyone was having the most fun exchanging secretions and suddenly a DJ accomplice played that of "Reach out and touch faith!".

Carlos M. Mérida

Carlos M. Mérida

Oidor. Coleccionista sin espacio. Leguleyo. Temeroso de las abejas y de los vientos huracanados.

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