Depeche Mode | Ultra | 180g Vinyl LP

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Ultra is the ninth studio album by English electronic group Depeche Mode, which was originally released by Mute Records on 14 April 1997

"Ultra both reprises an earlier Mode and entices with a taste of Modes to come. The band has wisely left behind the forced arena rock of their last album and evolved towards a more richly nuanced hybrid of conventional and electronic instrumentation. The resulting sound is both engaging in its diversity and surprising in its consistency. The aplomb with which Depeche Mode fuses electronic beats, cascading violins, and guitar hooks into a soulful and coherent whole puts the new techno-geek incarnation of U2 to shame. Where U2's Pop! crashes waves of sound upon the listener, Ultra achieves an equally rich sonic texture through delicacy and understatement.

Lyrically and musically, Ultra depicts the band grappling with its recent scars, particularly Gahan's smack problem. From the self-loathing and acoustic turbulence of "Barrel of a Gun," the first sequel, to the mechanical gurgling of the outro, "Painkiller," the shadow of a syringe falls over the album. Gahan sings of "a vicious appetite" and pines for "the spirit of love" with an earnest intensity that usually overcomes Gore's occasionally banal lyrics. His high register and emotionally laden delivery on songs such as "Love Thieves" and "Sister of Night" ("Little 15" redux) are reminiscent of the days of "See You" and "Get the Balance Right," before Gahan settled into the deadpan baritone croon that carries most of the Mode's later hits.

Perhaps due to the band's travails, Ultra is the most experimental Mode album since 1983's A Broken Frame, when these same three fellows lost their leading songwriter, Vince Clarke, to Yaz (and subsequently Erasure). As a result, with the exception of "It's No Good," a catchy and confident tune that's A-1 formula Mode, there's no hit single potential on Ultra. There are, however, a good number of interesting songs that gradually seep into your system. "The Bottom Line" finds Gore at his most emotive, once again singing the bittersweet woes of infatuation over an aural fabric that alternates between jazz trio cool, electropop bounce, and country twang. With arpeggiating violins and arena-rock-style guitar bridges, "Home" is an intriguing Disneyesque ditty. And both "Jazz Thieves" and "Uselink" prove that the Mode haven't lost their knack for atmospheric instrumentals."

- Kevin C. Murphy

LP Track Listing:

1. Barrel Of A Gun

2. Love Thieves

3. Home

4. It's No Good

5. Uselink

6. Useless

7. Sister Of Night

8. Jazz Thieves

9. Freestate

10. Bottom Line

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