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DEPECHE MODE Ultra (Original 1987 UK 11-track CD album picture sleeve CDSTUMM148)
Fighting off their various demons--in the case of singer Dave Gahan, a heroin addiction which saw him clinically dead on at least one occasion--the band reformed for its 11th studio album. But where Songs of Faith And Devotion had indulged their penchant for stadium rock theatrics (with disastrous results, so far as Gahan was concerned), Ultra saw a return to the layered electronics of Violator--albeit with a noticeably tougher edge. By engaging Bomb The Bass's Tim Simenon as producer, their sound underwent a subtle metamorphosis: the beats harder, the arrangements more complex and contemporary. The result was their most satisfying collection to date. And though Martin Gore's own vocal, on "Home", constitutes one of this album's standouts, what's really remarkable is Gahan's treatment of Gore's songs, in light of his own chequered history: to hear him sing "Useless" ("you've got your head in the clouds/ you should see how it feels/ with your feet on the ground") is like nothing so much as watching a public declaration of guilt. Discomfiting, but also compelling. --Andrew McGuire
Top Customer Reviews
1997 was the come-back year for big bands such as INXS and U2, but their efforts were not even a bit close to Depeche Mode's Ultra.
U2 showed they were only made to commercialize their image and play guitars while INXS demonstrated they were only an 80's band.
Depeche Mode gave us another surprise. After the hugely successful Violator, we were given a soul-rock album, something nobody thought they were capable of, and Ultra, the follow-up to Songs of Faith and Devotion, is the perfect mixture of strings and keyboards.
The album is made of a wide variety of musical styles, from the synth-pop of "It's no good" to the US- western of "Freestate", from the rock of "Useless" to the soft ballad in "Insight".
The vocalization reaches a zenith with Martin Gore in "Home", a wonderful ballad with splendid lyrics and a powerful production, and though Dave's vocal are not at its best, he still pleases us with good performances like "Insight" or "Useless".
The lyrics tell us about tears, longing, patience and even hope, in the intelligent way Depeche Mode has accustomed us for a long time.
The production is excellent, and maybe the only weak point of the album is that there are many musicians, showing that the departure of Alan Wilder left an empty space very difficult to cover.
In Ultra, we find one of the best albums ever made. An elegant album that is probably the most accessible in the entire discography of these Basildon musicians, though most of the credits go to an album released the same year, the "OK Computer" of Radiohead.Read more ›
The track 'Home' has to be my fave track of all time. I cannot find fault with it.
I'm not easily impressed. I'm VERY choosey. 'Ultra' is highly reccomended. Especially through headphones... Enjoy!!!
With the new millenium drawing near, this album saw the band following on from the feel and sound of the dark, rocky SOFAD but as other reviewers have stated, Ultra softened this sound down. The songs became less harsh, more organic, more slickly produced.
I think the general public were confused about where Depeche Mode stood in modern pop music - beginning to be left behind by commercial radio stations, while the album and first two singles fared well (in fact reaching some of the highest positions ever attained by the band), things were less rosy on Useless and Home.
Despite that, i think Ultra will always have a special place in the hearts of many fans. It is with this album more than ever that you feel closest to the band, the emotion showing throw in bucketloads in the poeticism of Martin's lyrics and Dave's simply amazing voice. 'Home' remains to this date one of the most entrancing of all the band's songs, Martin's haunting voice playing wonderfully against a backdrop of atmospheric synths that build into a crescendo of strings in the chorus that still sends a shiver of pure wonder down my spine. I've said it before but the lyrics on this songs really are just amazing.
'Barrel Of A Gun' is really interesting, building slowly. Like SOFAD, this represents some of the band's rockier material yet its relentless assault on your senses with its thunderous beats and that intoxicating hummed hook it's one you'll keep coming back to for more. Awesome video too. 'It's No Good' soundwise takes a completely opposite route yet somehow feels completely at home on the same record as 'Barrel Of A Gun'. It's that masterfully woven tapestry of sound that just grabs you and surrounds you for the album's entirety - magic.Read more ›