Depeche mode is lucky just ot be aloive after the twi njolts it suffered in 1995 - crooner David GAhan's suicide attempt and the departure of keyboard player Alan Wilder, who had been in the band since 1982.

The fact that Ultra even exists then, should be enough to cheer the British groups worldwide legions of fans. It'll have to be. Slow dark and Boring. "Ultra" the bands first studio Album sinces "Songs of FAith and Devotion"(1993) suggest that Depeche Mode may be intact but not yet whole.

Gahan, who went into drug rehab after his suicide attempt (he opened a two inch gash in his wrist with a razor blade)m sings with renewed vigor on "Ultra." But musical director/songwriter MArtin Gore gives him little to work with. Depeche Mode hasn't been a particularly happy bands since Martin took over song writing chores from Vince Clarke after the bands first album, but "Ultra" is spectacularly Morose and plodding.

Reduced to a trio of Gore, Gahan, and synth player Andrew Fletcher, Depeche Mode and producer Tim Simenon called in a throng of backing players - ex-living Colour bassist Doug Wimblish, pedal steel player B.J. Cole, three percuscconists, two drummers, a keyboardist programmer, strings and some guy creded with "system 700." None of the guists manages to (or is allowed to) shake things up much, however.

There are some occassional bits of texture to break up the draggy proceedings - the curelike groove of "it's No Good;" the abrasive guitar fragments that starts "Useless" And at times, the mood is intoxicatingly hypnotic. But after a while someone should have snapped his fingers to bring Depeche Mode out of it's trance.
two stars

San Antonio Tx Express news, April 24st 1997

© BEYOND words 2003 - 2005