At the end of the 80s Depeche Mode put a small advert in the papers. It read “Your own PERSONAL JESUS” and had a phone number below it.
If you phoned that number, you got to hear their new song.
That song is now fairly legendary in their canon as is the seemingly generationally-adored “Enjoy The Silence”. Whilst “Personal Jesus” was later covered by Johnny Cash, “Enjoy The Silence” seems to have been covered by everyone including a great 90s power-pop sounding Nada Surf version and an angst-ridden Tori Amos attempt.
Another single, however, from the world-conquering Violator album personified, for me at least, how far Depeche Mode had jumped since the previous album.
“World In My Eyes” opens that album and does so with economy and a hard edge.
The song’s initial synth line and a bass line to be specific and Dave Gahan sings much of the song almost monotone, his deep, rich tones immediately convincing as he cryptically sings:
Let me take you on a trip
Around the world and back
And you won’t have to move you just sit still
Francois Kervorkian mixed much of Violator and remains fairly modest about his influence on the album and yet there’s no doubt it has a unique sound to it which must in some way be contributed to him. Whilst he was striving to make simple, catchy, accessible songs, there are still a whole host of little details also present which he seems to have been responsible for.
One of the things that makes me think of his influence (whether it was him or not) are the different sounds on “World In My Eyes”. There are a constant chatter of voices, cut to a fraction of a second, which bubble and hiccup almost imperceptibly under the surface, there are hi hat ticks and synthy string sounds, buzzy interruptions, riffs that intertwine precisely with one another but still let the song breathe beautifully.
It’s packed with sounds but still sparse and skeletal sounding, super catchy and dancey and yet hard and unforgiving.
How they achieved this balance is a feat of magic that can be heard elsewhere on the album but not as convincingly as on “World In My Eyes”. Unlike any of the other songs, the opener doesn’t reveal its melody straight away. It holds on to its hard edge until way, way through the song. At 1:51 there’s a refrain of sorts:
That’s all there is
Nothing more than you can feel now
That’s all there is
Our protagonist is promising a world of delights in his company, a journey that will feel like going around the world, when in reality, it’s all right there in one room.
At 3.07 the melody finally opens out like a flower, resolving in a way you didn’t realize you needed until it arrives. It’s a lovely moment, held apart from the song for as long as possible and the knowledge of this is what makes me come back to the song time and time again, to feel that release.
Apparently this was a favourite song of the astronaut Chris Hadfield who would play it for obvious reasons when looking at the Earth from a window in space.
That celebrity endorsement may be a little more low key than the adoration given to the first two, now classic, singles from the album. But for me, “World In My Eyes” starts Depeche Mode’s most celebrated album as their coolest, sexiest, most danceable moment.