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The Mode Stepping Stone
on 14 March 2011
Interesting listen to see how they evolved from their bubbly happy debut with Vince Clark,
Most Mode enthusiasts tell you to start your collection from Black Celebration and beyond, but it's always interesting to see the genesis of a band. Some evolve others disintegrate, with the mode it's the former
Most people are down on this album including the band. I read an article where Martin Gore said they made this album to show they could do it. I suspect they weren't really ready after Vince Clarke's departure. So in many respects this is a debut album of the New Mode
Broken Frame has some appeal as background music, but I get the feeling that wasn't what Depeche Mode was going for with their second album. It's all nicely put together, there are some occasionally appealing synths and programmed drums, but melodically this is very weak. But hey who else was really doing this in 1982. They weren't new romantics and the weren't as robotic as Newman, Ultravox or the Leauge.
The best word to describe this album is 'transitional'. The fabled 'difficult second album' is not helped when your main songwriter quits to form Yazoo. and Eurasue and given that direction thank God the Mode stayed together and gave it a go.
There's some excellent songs on this album that stand the test of time. 'Leave In Silence' is one of the greater singles from the early years of Depeche Mode. 'See You' which was the first single written by Gore as principal songwriter is a good effort. The album contains some hidden gems like 'My Secret Garden' and 'Monument'. These songs provide evidence that Gore was up to the job of not only filling Clarke's shoes, but going beyond that and was an early indication of things to come. Think about it guys were on 20 years old. Gore once admitted that "See You" and "A Photograph of You" were written when he was just 16. And the lyrics do seem naive and a bit juvenile for some. Also, Dave's vocals are alright on these early records, but on the later records is where he truly sounds better.
To say a broken frame has no artistic growth is kind of unfair, As I have said. "Monument" in particular is kind of fascinating. Alan Wilder hadn't yet joined the band but I remember reading that he had wanted to perform that song at some of the later tours, although they've never since touched the stuff on here. You kind of can't blame them, either. Some of these songs are awful. But like an apprentice we al make mistakes
All in all it isn't earth-shattering but not all that bad in itself. An album that sees them "growing up", adopting a darker style, although not really abandoning the teenybopper pop of the debut either. Despite the departure of Vince Clarke, A Broken Frame doesn't actually sound that different from Depeche Mode's debut. It's a little bit darker, but A Broken Frame more or less follows the blueprint for bubbly synth-pop perfectly. You Cant Compare the latter mode with this stuff they are universes apart. It a bit like the Cure at their poppiest
All in al this was just a stepping stone until they could decided which way to go