In praise of...Music for the Masses by Depeche Mode

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I still rate Violator over Ultra in terms of the nineties albums but Ultra is really something, keeps getting better every time I hear it. Some older thoughts.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:14 (8 years ago) Permalink

Violator is really, really excellent but there's something about the level of familiarity I have with it that may cause me to unfairly underrate it.

The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:18 (8 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, you. *beats Dan down*

Strictly speaking I love all the Depeche albums YES THAT INCLUDES THE FIRST TWO but there are those that are clearly a cut above. Ultra is one, Playing the Angel is another.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:21 (8 years ago) Permalink

Ultra is a little bloated -- it's an hour in length and it feels like a LONG hour when you listen to it all the way through. Compared to their other great albums (including "Playing the Angel") the songs sound same-y. I'm sure they wanted to capture a particular mood that would seep throughout the whole album, but "Playing the Angel" shows that they can do that while still utilising a large palette of different sounds. while Some of those five/six minute tracks could lose a minute or two, and the album could stand to lose about two tracks and 10-15 minutes. It's the only DM album that I would criticise for being too long (I believe it is their longest?)

Still, the good stuff on it is *fucking great* (the singles, THE BOTTOM LINE, Insight ...) so I love it despite its many flaws.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:38 (8 years ago) Permalink

You're weird sir. (More specifically, let's hear you name a couple of songs to drop -- the brief instrumental bits don't count. ;-) )

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:39 (8 years ago) Permalink

You could drop "The Love Thieves" and "Sister of Night" without hurting the album too much.

"Freestate" takes forever to get where it's going, but once it gets there, it's great. They could have chopped a minute or so out of "Home", as well.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:46 (8 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure somebody will claim that "Sister of Night" is Dave's best vocal on the entire album. That may be true, but the song doesn't measure up to the other tracks on the record.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:47 (8 years ago) Permalink

If anything, they need to add about 27 minutes into "Home" and make it into "This Corrosion Pt II".

The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:48 (8 years ago) Permalink

Make it "Insight" instead of "Home" and I'm with you.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:51 (8 years ago) Permalink

There is no way I'm going to dismiss Martin Gore's best melody line since "A Question Of Lust".

The Ghost of Black Elegance (Dan Perry), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:52 (8 years ago) Permalink

Also, they should have made Jaki Liebezeit a full-time member. Only great things could have come of this.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:52 (8 years ago) Permalink

I'm sure somebody will claim that "Sister of Night" is Dave's best vocal on the entire album.

That's the one vocal on the album which was recorded when he was still in his smack hell. It's edited together from about thirty takes!

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:57 (8 years ago) Permalink

Dan, of course, scathingly right about "Home." That said, Barry scathingly right about "Insight." My only real regret that there was never an actual Ultra tour, understandable though it was, is that "Insight" never got a live airing. I think it is probably my all time favorite Depeche album cut and is definitely my favorite album ender by them.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 18:58 (8 years ago) Permalink

I just went to the Kim's near Columbia (for those of you familiar with NYC), and they didn't have Music for the Masses on the racks. I ask the guy at the counter if they have it in stock. He looks it up in the computer, and tells me that they don't carry it. Ever. WTF?

Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:28 (8 years ago) Permalink

Abuse him.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:29 (8 years ago) Permalink

I was going to say, "How can you not carry one of the quintessential albums of a band that has been hugely popular and influential over the last 25 years?' But then I remembered who their principle clientele is.

Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:44 (8 years ago) Permalink

Dave Matthews Band fans?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:46 (8 years ago) Permalink

'Indie' is the largest section in the store. It's about 3 times the size of the R&B section.

Super Cub (Debito), Monday, 24 October 2005 20:57 (8 years ago) Permalink

I don't understand, Ultra only has nine songs! Why would you want to cut any of them??

I think the only one that annoys me even slightly is "Freestate" because I don't really like it when Gore's recent tendency to become positive 'n' preachy - but even then it's only because it feels like it prepares the way for "Freelove", and yeah, the last half is killer. "Barrell of a Gun" occasionally annoys me because it seems a bit try-hard, but then at other times I love the very same thing about it.

"Insight" is awesome, "Sister of Night" is probably better for that huge synth riff than for the singing, but best of all the album tracks is "The Bottom Line" for me.

Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:25 (8 years ago) Permalink

You could drop "The Love Thieves" and "Sister of Night" without hurting the album too much.

No, you couldn't. "The Love Thieves" is the best track on the entire album.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:27 (8 years ago) Permalink

(Hey wait Tim, have you heard the new album yet? GET IT NOW.)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 October 2005 21:31 (8 years ago) Permalink

just got this. listening now. aw. yay. it's good.

Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 22:48 (8 years ago) Permalink

duh, i mean just got the new one! forgot which thread i was on.

Kim (Kim), Monday, 24 October 2005 22:48 (8 years ago) Permalink

If I were as eloquent as Ned, and it weren't 2:30 in the morning, I would write a smilar essay as to why Exciter is the great overlooked Depeche Mode album.

I must agree with whoever posted that I've always loved 'Never Let Me Down Again'. It's just so fucking HUGE. Yes, it is, particularly the version on one of the live DVDs that I have - One Night in Paris? Been a while since I watched it. However, filler such as Pimpf dragges Music for the Masses down as an album, imho.

John Hunter, Tuesday, 25 October 2005 06:34 (8 years ago) Permalink

8 months pass...
Mmm reissue I love you...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 23 July 2006 21:36 (8 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...
as do i .. especially when 3 quid in fopp.

mark e (mark e), Friday, 20 October 2006 13:53 (8 years ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...
lol ned raggett i love orignal post

a name means a lot just by itself (lfam), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:20 (7 years ago) Permalink

i love that you love this music so much


"Strangelove" is not the single version and that's a good thing, because I like the machine gear loop noise and that barely audible bell-like synth bit then BAM BAM BAM and it's suddenly bass and drums that in its brute simplicity could be, I dunno, Prince 1984 in Eastern Europe or something. Motown 1971 after the apocalypse when the robots took over. The guitar on this one is subtle compared to That Riff on "Never Let Me Down Again" but like on so many later songs it's this lovely shading hiding out amid the strident synth riff that's this unmissable nag nag nag. And the song's about circular codependency of extremism in 'love' or somesuch. I like how at the end there's a part where Gahan calls and responses and then suddenly where his voice 'should' be a sudden high synth bit squirrels across the mix.

a name means a lot just by itself (lfam), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:22 (7 years ago) Permalink

OMG is "A Question of Time" on this one? I'm not really a very big DM fan but that song still appears in my head sometimes at like 7 in the morning and things like that.

All The Furniture Is In The Garage (Bimble...), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:24 (7 years ago) Permalink

No, it's Black Celebration isn't it? Sorry.

All The Furniture Is In The Garage (Bimble...), Monday, 6 November 2006 06:25 (7 years ago) Permalink

i love that you love this music so much

I love you love me love

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 6 November 2006 07:05 (7 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...
france didn't have francs in 2004 and if they did 6 francs would be almost less than $1 US. a record like 'music for the masses' wouldn't sell for that.

that said, fantastic album

'never let me down again' is an absolute tour de force. one of the most compelling opening tracks around. from there on the record mellows and explores different moods, but everything remains cohesive and intriguing, and on a sheer track by track level, things hold up very nicely. it's a bizarre sort of record, one that is on certain levels quite subtle and self-absorbed and on other levels grandiose and dramatic.

'nothing' is really very lyrically profound. understated in delivery to be sure, but the lyrics demand close atention

Charlie Howard, Thursday, 1 March 2007 16:02 (7 years ago) Permalink

"The Things You Said" is fan-fucking-tastic, as Martin-led songs usually are. Sometimes it's my favorite DM song, but of course that changes every five minutes. :) Does it really have anything to do with the "joys of drug use" though??

I love love love this album. Not quite as flawless as Construction Time Again or Black Celebration but I have no complaints to speak of. It's got great beats.

Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:36 (7 years ago) Permalink

Oh and also "Nothing" is AMAZING. I really love the synth hook.

Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:50 (7 years ago) Permalink

Does it really have anything to do with the "joys of drug use" though??


Er, I was referring to "Never Let Me Down Again."

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:51 (7 years ago) Permalink

Oh, yeah, duh.

Curt1s Stephens, Thursday, 1 March 2007 18:53 (7 years ago) Permalink

I still don't see it as my favourite Depeche Mode album. It is partly the entire 1987 aesthetic I dislike (electronic music in the midst of primimtive D50/M1 sampling machines and the DX7 - never liked the sound of those). I also feel like the album wears a bit thin towards the end.

Like I already said, I absolutely love "The Things You Said". I also have a soft spot for "Sacred" and "Nothing", and "Strangelove" sounds great in the album version (as opposed to the somewhat thin-sounding single version that predated it)

"Never Let Me Down Again" and "Behind The Wheel" are just too monotonous for me to enjoy them. I know they are loved by several fans, but I haven't quite gotten the grip. The too-authentic-sounding piano on "Never Let Me Down Again" also puts me off somewhat - somehow it just doesn't sound synthpop/electronic enough. "Behind The Wheel" sounded better in its 7 inch version btw.

"To Have and To Hold" is kind of interesting in a weird way, as is definitely "I Want You Now". Both could have done with a better arrangement, as could definitely "Little 15" - a wonderful ballad that is somehow partly spoiled by a nagging and irritating backing track (particularly at the beginning)

Which leaves us with "Little 15" - probably the most pointless thing they ever did. Would have been better off having been replaced by "Pleasure Little Treasure"; and let me add that I am no fan of "Pleasure Little Treasure" either.

Geir Hongro, Sunday, 4 March 2007 00:48 (7 years ago) Permalink

PRE-D50/M1 sampling machines, is what I was supposed to write in that paranthesis up there.

Geir Hongro, Sunday, 4 March 2007 00:49 (7 years ago) Permalink

Tedious reverence around them aside, when it comes to the music and performances of it, it just bugs, like an itch you can't scratch. I don't find much in the way of personal connection there, in fact really none, maybe a song or two aside.

gershy, Sunday, 4 March 2007 02:21 (7 years ago) Permalink

5 years pass...

Ultra is easily the best of their 90s albums IMO; it's much more cohesive than SOFAD and it isn't completely forgettable two weeks later the way that Exciter is.

funny how 7 years later I don't really like Ultra all that much and am really, really, really bullish on Exciter (which still isn't as good as Violator)

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

also, "Never Let Me Down", "Strangelove" and "The Things You Said" all own hardcore

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

Especially in their various album mixes.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 27 April 2012 17:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

oh yeah, the single version of "Strangelove" is TERRIBLE and embarrassing tbh

I don't think there's a version of "Never Let Me Down Again" that I've heard that I've disliked, though

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 17:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

There is not one song on this album that I dislike.

Respectfully, Tyrese Gibson (Nicole), Friday, 27 April 2012 18:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

I like the remix of "Behind the Wheel" that was on the single more than the album version (probably because I heard the single first)

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 18:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

I had all of the remixes back in the day on a cassette tape, but I couldn't even tell you what they sounded like now.

Respectfully, Tyrese Gibson (Nicole), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

I like this record but still prefer Violator even if I think about it for more than a few seconds the later album has as much filler.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

violator is the ne plus ultra of zero filler albums!

Touché Gödel (ledge), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

don't like "Blue Dress" or "Clean"

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 April 2012 19:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

well that's just crazy

I'M THAT POSTA, AAAAAAAAAH (DJP), Friday, 27 April 2012 20:13 (2 years ago) Permalink


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