One thing I did discover in 7th grade — apart from a world that was both kind and decent, which, being full of self-hatred, I didn’t quite manage to take advantage of — was Depeche Mode. It was dark; and the darker, the better. It was electronic; for several years I listened to almost nothing but electronic music. It was depressive and uplifting at the same time. A sensation combining doom and elation, with some occasionally rather magnificent pop.
I could barely leave for school unless I had some stuff like that, playing it on very high volume. My father and my brother left home at 7 am. I had to catch a train leaving 7.52 (7.50 according to the time-table, oddly, but that was never right), which meant leaving at 7.40 (or 7.45, if I ran like a maniac). And then, of course, I continued to listen on my walkman on the metro. School started at 8.30. Between 7 and 7.40 was my ‘free’ time, my alone time. I could do exactly what I wanted. Like listening to Black Celebration so that the windows almost broke. (No, they didn’t. Because my sound system wasn’t good enough.)
I noticed Depeche’s got another album coming out now. I’m not really that interested, to be honest. Violator had just been released when I was in 7th grade. Nothing will top that, ever. Though I was actually listening to Black Celebration, Some Great Reward and Music for the Masses before I became familiar with Violator. And, of course, Speak & Spell. If it counts. It’s cool these days, isn’t it? But, then, it seemed like too much pop, almost embarrassing. Except Ice Machine, which is still extraordinary — compelling, hypnotic. Hypnotic, by the way, is a word that fits many of the songs. Not sure it was on Speak and Spell though, but it is from that era. My first CD (first! completely first!) — they were so horribly expensive back then, I remember, kids today would laugh — was Black Celebration, the second one was Violator. I also used to be very fond of the recorded concert, 101; in fact, 101 used to drive me almost crazy, it was that good. I bought it on cassette, for purely economical reasons. (It broke, of course, like all cassettes did, sooner or later.)
I suppose that if I didn’t associate these songs with despair, they might be more pleasant to listen to. For example, I still think Waiting for the Night (from Violator) is incredibly beautiful. But it is associated, deeply, with who I was in the early 90s.
It is so heavily associated with dark, sleepless nights. With not knowing what to do about anything. With seeing no way out. Because what is interesting — at least in hindsight, I couldn’t see this then — is that once you get away from an environment you’ve wanted to escape for such a long time, you’re lost. You have no place in the world. You feel all this, to the core of your being. You have to despise yourself. And nothing in the world is wrong, on the outside, so you’ve got to take up the task of destroying for yourself, because nobody else will. And you have to act badly, because that’s the only way anybody ever reacts to you, and to that pain that is still burning (though to put that in words was too difficult — it took years).
The last album I bought was Ultra.* It was released in 1997 (dear Dog — it’s ages ago!). I was 19 and had moved away from home. Ultra holds no associations, no emotions, no thoughts, no memories. I quite like it, but it doesn’t evoke anything from the past. I had moved on to other bands by 1997. Some years ago, when I still knew how to do it, I copied some albums to my iPod. I’m now stuck with my choices in 2009 (or whenever it was, it might have been earlier). For some inexplicable reason, I chose Music for the Masses and Ultra. So I listen to Ultra quite a lot for that reason. I usually jump over most of Music for the Masses. It touches something, because it is from the past, and it was so significant then.
Something I find a bit entertaining now is to watch all those videos on youtube. When I was a child we had neither cable tv nor a video player. So although I saw Anton Corbijns magnificent photos, I never saw the videos. Until very late. In many cases it’s lasted until now. I’ve seen 101 before (though not when I was a teenager), but now I found it on youtube and will be glued to the screen for the rest of the evening.
*I don’t have a clue, apparently. I forgot Playing the Angel. I did, in fact, buy Playing the Angel. I had a major Depeche relapse some years ago. But — I can’t remember Playing the Angel. It must have left few marks on me. It didn’t mean anything. What is that about? Do you need those sleepless nights with an album to fully appreciate it? For it to inscribe itself onto you? I also notice, on wikipedia, that I’ve forgotten two early albums — A Broken Frame and Contruction Time Again. They seemed terribly important then — but in the end they weren’t.