Episode 89: Hua Hsu on Depeche Mode’s “Violator” (1990)

Episode 89

Violator was the pick of guest Hua Hsu, staff writer at the New Yorker and English professor at Vassar College. For him, Violator was part of a soundscape of growing up in the Bay Area, least of all as an Asian American. As he and Oliver (flying solo this week) discuss, modern rock became a soundtrack for a generation of Asian American youth, at least those growing up in West Coast suburbs for whom songs centered on alienation and otherness felt all too familiar. Besides, as Hsu notes, we all had piano lessons so a music built around synthesizers was an easy sell.

Episode notes

The Album: Depeche Mode: Violator (1990)
By the time Depeche Mode released Violator in 1990, they had already become one of the giants of the modern rock world but Violator took the group to new heights of global success. Dark and moody yet intimately dance-able, the group and their album marked a height of synth-pop’s growth across the 1980s, a zenith that would soon be eclipsed by the on-rush of grunge and competing forms of so-called “alternative” rock.
Violator was the pick of guest Hua Hsu, staff writer at the New Yorker and English professor at Vassar College. For him, Violator was part of a soundscape of growing up in the Bay Area, least of all as an Asian American. As he and Oliver (flying solo this week) discuss, modern rock became a soundtrack for a generation of Asian American youth, at least those growing up in West Coast suburbs for whom songs centered on alienation and otherness felt all too familiar. Besides, as Hsu notes, we all had piano lessons so a music built around synthesizers was an easy sell.
More on Hua Hsu

More on Violator

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Violator unless indicated otherwise):

  • Clean
  • Depeche Mode: Blasphemous Rumours
  • Clean
  • New Order: Bizarre Love Triangle
  • Personal Jesus
  • Policy of Truth
  • Halo
  • Blue Dress
  • Somebody
  • Personal Jesus
  • Depeche Mode: Route 66
  • Depeche Mode: Behind the Wheel
  • Enjoy the Silence
  • Depeche Mode: Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Johnny Cash: Personal Jesus
  • Tori Amos: Enjoy the Silence
  • Jazzystics: Personal Jesus
  • St. Petersburg Ska Jazz Review: Policy of Truth

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there

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In this episode...

Guests

  • Hua Hsu

About the show

Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock – a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.

Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don’t exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin, and more.

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