I guess if you’ve been a teen/adolescent/young adult in the 80ies and 90ies, there was no way around Depeche Mode. 1991’s “Violator” marks the peak of the “classic” DM sound, and is probably their best album – it concludes their original “electronic” phase and “Enjoy the Silence” would be a good candidate for my “songs to play loud” series but instead, my pick is from the album that followed, “Songs Of Faith And Devotion”, which marked a departure from the synth-heavy DM sound, introducing guitars and an overall grungier sound.
The instrumentation of “Walking In My Shoes” is simply fantastic – there are a lot of nice details to discover after repeated listens (for example, the bassdrum sounds like a heartbeat in the second part), but most of all, this song needs to be played loud so that you can sing along 😀 (and drown out your own inadequate singing voice, in my case) because this song is about the lyrics (look them up).
Naturally, with lyrics and poems alike, not everything will apply. There was no “pain they put me through” for me – at least I think not – and the meaning of that part of the lyrics remains a little bit cryptic to me. This may be essential to understanding the true meaning of the song, or maybe Martin Gore simply picked it as both vague enough to be understandable and to set the mood – but with all art forms, the individual meaning that we see may differ from the artist’s original intention.
The words in these lyrics are reminder that we may all screw up at some point, even when we try to do the right thing. They are comforting because they express a point of understanding, acceptance, and also an attitude. And last not least, they’re a lesson – that we all shouldn’t judge others so easily and carelessly, without walking in their shoes – we may stumble when we try to follow in the footsteps of someone whom we judge. So get off that high horse of your own morality (“would frown upon”), and into the dirt. I’m still working on wholly internalizing it – that’s the most important thing about it: it goes both ways.
Maybe it’s just me but I hear a softness and fragility in Dave Gahan’s voice when he concludes “Try walking in my shoes” after “But before you come to any conclusions” – perhaps it’s remorse, even? But then the musical shift in mood to the bold “You’ll stumble in my footsteps” – it’s a subtle and polite way to raise the middle finger. I love that moment in the song most.