Documentary Evidence

Depeche Mode

A Broken Frame

Depeche Mode 'A Broken Frame' LP artwork

album // A Broken Frame

mute records | lp/c/cd stumm9 | release date 27/09/1982 | track listing

Post-Vince Clarke, pre-Alan Wilder, A Broken Frame found Depeche Mode supposedly rudderless without Vince's songwriting abilities. In spite of the headwind created by losing their main songwriter, and sensing accusations of being one-album wonders, Martin Gore - who only contributed two songs to Speak & Spell - quickly dusted down a few songs he'd written as a child, wrote a few more and produced, in A Broken Frame, a decisively coherent second album.

When young bands metamorphose and produce something a bit more knowing, the music press tends to describe the resultant music as being more 'mature'; while this does render anything previously recorded as infantile or childish, in the case of A Broken Frame it's difficult not to agree with that description. In spite of the surface tweeness of the single 'See You', the lyrics elsewhere on this album are pretty deep, displaying an assuredness in Gore's writing that has never diminished. 'The Meaning Of Love', as an example, appears to be a gleeful pop song but deftly asks some meaningful questions about our obsession with the 'L' word; Gore would later do the same only with religion replacing love.

Elsewhere, things veer toward the strange - 'Monument', alluding to the Stakhanovite / Marxist tendencies more obviously displayed on Construction Time Again, is a towering display of electronic oddness; a pretty brave move for what was ostensibly supposed to be Daniel Miller's radio-friendly synth-pop trio. 'Shouldn't Have Done That' is similarly bizarre, a series of electronic vignettes bound together into a seamless narrative, depicting a boy growing up yet constantly getting reproached by his mother's wagging finger.

'Nothing To Fear', an instrumental, starts off in pop territory but includes a central melody which is loaded with heavy emotion, while the wispy 'Satellite' dabbles in an almost reggae vibe. 'A Photograph Of You' is simply a joyful, soulful, throwaway pop track and doesn't pretend to be otherwise, providing a pleasant interlude to the slightly more gloomy proceedings elsewhere.

The best tracks, though, are 'My Secret Garden' and 'The Sun And The Rainfall'. The former is ethereal and mysterious, developing out of an extended, laconic instrumental section before breaking out into a serene, wry take on synth-pop. The latter is positively epic for a band at this stage in their career and is laden with much weariness and sorrow; its fragile central line 'Things must change / We must re-arrange them / Or we'll have to exchange them' containing possibly the most emotional weight on the entire album. It also neatly segues into the bleaker territory evidenced on 1983's Construction Time Again.

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1. Leave In Silence
2. My Secret Garden
3. Monument
4. Nothing To Fear
5. See You
6. Satellite
7. The Meaning Of Love
8. A Photograph Of You
9. Shouldn't Have Done That
10. The Sun And The Rainfall

(c) 2010 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence