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How would the band carry on without Vince Clarke?

Music Review: Depeche Mode – A Broken Frame (Deluxe Edition CD+DVD)

Following the success of their seminal first album, 1981’s Speak and Spell, Depeche Mode was faced with a major dilemma. How to carry on without Vince Clarke? Clarke, the band’s songwriter and all-around musical architect, abruptly left the group citing creative differences, and a general distaste for the interviews, television spots, and constant attention that comes with a band whose star is rapidly rising. With him gone, it was up to remaining members Andrew Fletcher, Dave Gahan, and Martin Gore to prove to Clarke (and themselves) that they could carry on with Gore as sole songwriter and arranger. What ensues is 1982’s A Broken Frame, their first album as a three piece, and an album that longtime producer, and Mute Records founder, Daniel Miller would call “a transitional album” and later refer to as the beginning of the so-called dark phase.

The second installment of Rhino Records re-releasing, and remastering, of the Depeche Mode catalogue includes A Broken Frame, 1984’s Some Great Reward, and 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. This follows the initial re-releases of 1981’s Speak and Spell, 1987’s Music for The Masses, and 1990’s Violator. Each two-disc set comes packaged in a slick, gatefold slipcase and includes a CD of the album, as well as a bonus DVD with the album digitally remastered in 5.0, with various extras.

The CD, minus the art on the actual disc itself, has nothing to offer that wasn’t included on its original UK release. Singles include “See You,” “The Meaning of Love,” and “Leave in Silence.” Also on this album are such fan favorites as “My Secret Garden,” “Monument,” and “The Sun and The Rainfall.” A Broken Frame most certainly is a transitional album. It is a reboot, of sorts, taking the band from Clarke’s original point of view to the more complex song structures of Gore’s more brooding, melancholic point of view. It is an obvious window into the future of the Depeche Mode we are familiar with today, a landmark album in a discography spanning 25 years.

The DVD, as you can imagine, is the intended point of purchase, not just for A Broken Frame, but for all of these Rhino remasters, with a bevy of audio and video content to offer. Each track from the album is reproduced in both 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and DTS 5.1, as well as a stereo 2.0 mix. The DTS 5.1 is sure to set any audiophile’s head spinning, fan or not, most notably with “Monument” and the sweetly haunting “Leave In Silence.”

Also included on the DVD are the three rare B-sides to each of the aforementioned singles: “Now This Is Fun” (originally b/w “See You”), “Oberkorn: It’s a Small Town” (b/w “The Meaning of Love”), and “Excerpt from: My Secret Garden” (b/w “Leave In Silence”). Until now, all three of these cuts were only available on the original vinyl releases, and through The Singles box sets.

Also in 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mix are six tracks from A Broken Frame recorded live in Hammersmith in October 1982. Included are two singles (“See You” and “The Meaning of Love”) as well as “My Secret Garden,” “Satellite,” “A Photograph of You,” and an extremely rare, and wonderful rendition of “Nothing To Fear.” Outside of the overall sound quality, this is the major perk to this purchase.

Rounding out the DVD is the video content. Depeche Mode: 1982 (The beginning of their so called dark phase) is a continuation (one would assume the second installment) of the ongoing documentary produced specifically for these special editions. Each member, past and present (if applicable), as well as producer Miller and various players in the Depeche Mode family, from public relations to tour managers, recalls the atmosphere and events surrounding this release.

This particular episode deals mainly with the loss of Vince Clarke, the appointing of Martin Gore as sole songwriter, and the direction the band took, therein. Each member gives a detailed account, and it is always nice to get anything with Clarke reminiscing about his Mode days before going on to form Yazoo and Erasure. We learn that his post break-up intention was to pursue a day job, but that he was unexpectedly tapped to do a demo for a then relatively unknown Alison Moyet. The addition of eventual fourth member Alan Wilder is also covered here, from his beginnings as a hired gun brought on to help with the live shows leading up to the album’s release to his eventual retention in the lineup that would go on to define them. All in all, a very insightful 30 minutes, on a very important album.

Very few bands are, or were, as collectible as Depeche Mode has been throughout their career. To date, six Depeche Mode albums have been given the Rhino “Special Edition” treatment, with the four remaining albums slated for an early ’07 release. All of which, have been nothing short of spectacular. These re-releases have been lovingly put together with the fans in mind. A souvenir from a particular band, for a particular album, if you will. Have a favorite Depeche Mode album or period? Perhaps, A Broken Frame? Then I highly recommend picking up that souvenir.

Written by Tio Esqueleto

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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