A Broken Frame
Mute Records, 1982
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/06/2009
What to do when your band’s designated leader up and leaves? You step up and seize the moment, becoming the chief songwriter and creative director. Which is exactly what Martin Gore did for this, Depeche Mode’s second album, A Broken Frame. While it may not have been as immediately engaging as their debut Speak & Spell, this sophomore effort managed to maintain the same level of integrity and high-concept vision as its predecessor.
If the first record established this synth act as a British music contender, then A Broken Frame must have sealed the deal -- especially when it came to winning over a legion of teenage female admirers (in that part of the globe, at least). You’ve got the three brooding young members of the band, the mysterious and foreboding
Children Of The Corn album cover, and a fetching, understated vocal performance by Dave Gahan, who obviously had yet to come into his own as a singer. At times, the cute, earnest approach borders on the saccharine, but there’s enough cinematic sweep in the music to help balance things out.
The opening cut, “Leave In Silence,” is perhaps the strongest single to be found here, providing the perfect soundtrack to a winter’s first snow. It is followed by a quick succession of simple and safe tracks that did little to hold my interest. I couldn’t help but think I was hearing a band that could very well have been in a serious state of flux at the time, with all three members trying ever so hard not to screw it all up. What results is a perfect example of a transition album, one that will forever get lost in the shuffle of the band’s future repertoire. No major missteps, though nothing all that memorable either.
Depeche Mode did leave the best moments as the album’s grand finale, however. Each of the last three tracks blends seamlessly together, forming a song suite that leaves the listener wanting more. Certainly, it would keep many critics pondering what they could possibly come up with for their third album. The cycle kicks off with the bouncy and fun number “A Photograph Of You,” which is a much-needed breath of fresh air coming so deep into such a weighty album as it does. The haunting, childhood-themed “Shouldn’t Have Done That” comes next, with some strong visual elements that help to make the track come alive, followed up by the mid-tempo closer “The Sun And The Rainfall.”
All in all, the band succeeded in keeping their hopes alive -- and in avoiding the dreaded sophomore jinx. Their glory days were still to come, though, including a surprise response from across the pond. With its subtle and subdued tone, A Broken Frame didn’t exactly break any sales records, but surely it must have broken some little girls’ hearts along the way. If that was their intention, then mission accomplished.
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