Saturday, April 12, 2014

Track of the Week: Depeche Mode, "Enjoy The Silence"

Every now and then I make an effort to dig up beloved music from my past that for some reason or another I haven't listened to for awhile.  Recently I gave Depeche Mode's 1990 classic Violator a spin, the second CD that I ever bought.

I was particularly struck by "Enjoy the Silence," the song that got me to buy the album in the first place.  Back in 1990, there wasn't a whole lot of good music on the Top 40.  Sure, there were some classic hip-hop records, but to hear that music I had to rush home from school to catch the tail end of Yo!  MTV Raps.  Because of the local Musicland's draconian enforcement of the parental warning labels requiring ID proof that the purchaser was 18 years of age, many of those records were out of reach for me.  (Thank goodness for a friend who dubbed his copy of Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet onto a blank tape for me.)

Rap music was where it was at for me, and I was one of the few people in rural Nebraska to be listening to Eric B and Rakim on a daily basis.  In the early summer of 1990 I spent many a lazy afternoon glued to the MTV tube, and in between forgettable crud like Poison's "Unskinny Bop" and faddish hits like MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" I would see the video for Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence."  Its synthesizer and reverb guitar sound would soon be made obsolete by the coming of grunge a year later, but in June of 1990 it was a cooler, more artistic form of pop music than Billy Idol singing "Rock the Cradle of Love."

As a shy and retiring fourteen year old I appreciated the song's basic message, that words are inherently hurtful, and silence a blessing.  Today the lyrics of the song seem a little-heavy handed to my cynical, hard-bitten early middle-aged ears, but the atmospherics of its electro-soundscape still intrigues me.  Depeche Mode was never a true pop band, nor an underground darling, either.  However, on this song they managed to find an irresistable pop hook, something that gave an isolated kid on rural kid a small bit of pleasure in an ocean of cultural refuse.  I loved the song so much that I bought it on cassingle even though I already had the CD.  It was like a secret message in a bottle sent to my lonely rural island, and a reminder today that as much I love music now, it can never truly mean as much for me as it meant back then.

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