Depeche Mode Gets Personal

If nothing else, DM is defiantly contrary. Back when guitars were all the rage, they stayed stubbornly electronic. Now that machines are the next big thing, the bands mixes in more hard guitar chords into "Ultra" than they;ve had for years.

The result is a deft, stirring album, containing some of the band's best songs, with hits "ING" and "BoaG" amoung them.

The band has always been able to put out personal touches into what is by definition often a cold genre.

Less bombastic and more intimate than the big hits the band is known for - "PJ", "NLMDA" - "Ultra" takes a personal approach. Songwriter Martin Gore says it plays a morality play; singer Dave Gahan says he and Gore have such a similar background that the songs can't help but sound like the tribulations the band has gone through in the past few years.

"SoN" could be about either a women or a drug. "Useless", "ING", and "BoaG speaks of betrayal, broken friendships, broken relationships, broken lives.

Yet it all ends up with the uplifting "Insight", where the singer has a flash od clarity and something is learned through all the damage and heartache. If you want to buy Gore and Gahan's line that they just happened to write this album at this critical juncture in the band's life - life well, be my guest.

But they shouldn't shy from that. In an era when so much music comes from manufactured angst, the band's real-life dramas have given a genuine spark to its work since "BC". That Gore writes this "morality play" without being condemming or preachy shows how he's grown as a subtle lyricist since his "People are People" days.

There's a bit of wasted space and filler - two listed instrumental tracks as well as one hidden instrumental. But overall the band's fans - more importantly, nonfans - will find an album that shows growth through adversity.
4 out of 5

Orange County Register (So. Cal. local newspaper), April 13th 1997

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