Ultra review,

Mute (12 trks/60 mins)

Long distance love never works out. At first, it's all letters echoed in the twitch of loneliness. Bonds across distance that take the map of separation and fold it into a tiny togetherness. But soon those letters start to get "lost in the post" and the telephone lines twist into circles, defining their own independence. One becomes two.

Which is why Depeche Mode shouldn't have made this album. A bad album. A lazy, disposable album.

She waits by the phone. Four years by the phone. He dials, pauses, and then says: "I'm fine". His chocolate voice is as charming as ever but even his thoughts have grown remote.

Which is why Depeche Mode shouldn't have taken so long to send the reminder that they invented everything special. And then invent nothing new. Rhythms and sounds that would destroy the Chemical Brothers' ambitions, but remain a mere reminder of their own.

He sends the first letter not to get lost in the post. 12 paragraphs. All laboured and hollow with other people's emotion. He says: "I can hear your soul crying". She reads on, patronised. He says "Let your feelings grow". She wonders whether she'll have to wait another four years to read his emptiness. His evasion.

Which is why Depeche Mode shouldn't have written lyrics so tritely dismissive of new thought. "Freedom's a state". Freedom's in a state. "Emotional emancipation". Emotional stagnation.

She remembers old times, young times, through the filter of jaded memory. Wonders whether she felt any more for him when he was around. Decides that he's better off away.

Which is why Depeche Mode should have written just one song as pure and fluid as "Halo", "Everything Counts", "Never Let Me Down Again", "Flies on the Windscreen", "Somebody". Treasures carried off by the cuckoos which occupy their evacuated nest. The linear tinnitus of "Ultra" makes ears ring and Depeche Mode's past success becomes overgrown with the
moss of failure. Which is why David Gahan will never recover. He was away too long. Somewhere he became a fool. Trapped into self-pity. Self-absorption. Self-delusion. Which is why Martin Gore, the broken mother, will waste the remainder of his career writing lullabies about his son's promise. Sweeping up his singer's blood-flecked detritus, sterilising the room with a mist of astringent optimism. She remembers the pain of wanting him back. She still hurts. But she doesn't want him back any more.

Melody Maker, April 17th 1997

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