The year was 1997 when I first found a band for myself. Most of the good music I’d be introduced to had been by the influence of family and friends. My family started me off on Beatles-The Smiths, my friends inducted me into the world of Britpop and metal, but I’d never just chosen something for myself.
When I heard the first single It’s No Good it was like somebody was finally speaking the same language to me after living in a foreign country my whole life. Dave Gahan’s voice dynamically shifts from seductive dark wave messiah to vampiric predator. The song is about love and desire not necessarily being words that need to be expressed, or adequately can be expressed, as love being an abstract emotion is not something that can ever be objectively defined or captured in language. The song also deals with the concept of fatalism being a component of love – it’s even there in the title ‘It’s No Good.’ Love is as much a feeling of dread as it is desire in this song, and the desire is all Gahan’s character, whom it seems to cast as a predator (‘you can run but you cannot hide’) and it makes you question if the lover that Gahan’s character is pursuing is little more than prey to his lusts.
Home deals with coming from the wrong side of town, and how familiarity breeds contempt and where we live can become a small town trap. The song describes home as being a cross to bear, a cage and ‘the deadliest trap.’ But the real kicker of the song is in the chorus in which Martin Gore sings ‘Finally I’ve found that I belong here’ in what can only be described as the character in the song developing Stockholm syndrome for the prison he inhabits. It’s chilling in the character’s acceptance of his fate to be bound to a place he never wanted to return to. If I had to describe Home to anyone I’d say it was like the SF horror movie Dark City in which Rufus Sewell struggles to escape a city that doubles back on itself into an endless circle.
Ultra is an album I still go back to on a regular basis because it reminds me of who I was when I was 17, how I felt and it still informs me of who I am now, of who I am, how I’ve changed and how i’ve stayed the same. It is an album of dark desires, predatory love, fatalism and the struggle to forge your own destiny.
So this is the first of what I hope will be many retro reviews in a feature I’m going to call “Longplay”. These will be longer than my 150 word limit that I normally have in my column in the Kirkby Extra, so I’ll be doing a more in depth analysis about what I like, what I don’t and what it means to me. Hope you enjoy it.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.