“We laid the foundations down…”
DEPECHE MODE themselves would rather prefer to forget the existence of ‘A Broken Frame’, the album which was Martin Gore’s first attempt at songwriting on a bigger scale following Vince Clarke’s departure after ‘Speak And Spell’.
Aside from the stripped back appearance of ‘Leave In Silence’ during ‘Touring The Angel’ in 2006, none of the songs from this record will ever find themselves performed live by the band again, and this transitional piece certainly is not what they boast about.
To a weathered DM fan, it is unclear why; after all, Martin’s genius starts shining through those early pieces and the mood is set for darker things to come. Ten songs, each of them with a different aura and character to form an album which paved DEPECHE MODE’s way onto bigger and greater things.
To think anyone would want to cover it, in its entirety, could have been a conversation point in itself. But MARSHEAUX have gone and done just that on Undo Records. Many artists have had a good go at trying to cover DEPECHE MODE songs with varying success, some releasing surprisingly poor quality substitutes, mainly due to a lack of understanding what the synth legends were all about. Some would seek to attempt to capitalise on something, which over the years had proven rather iconic. In this instance, it is neither. The record is fresh, filled with unique sounds, sexy voices and re-packaged in a manner to attract a new listener.
The order has been adhered to, and the first song, like on the original, is ‘Leave In Silence’. Beefy synths and luscious vocals hit from the beginning, with many DM elements preserved, yet brought to life by modern digital provisions. Dancier than its older sister, but with the all-important synth solos in place, it is mesmerisingly contemporary and en vogue.
‘My Secret Garden’ comes in with brilliant drum patterns and a fresh approach to those signature Depeche sounds, interspersed with newer, digitally enhanced gems. With the female vocals throughout, the tune changes into a LADYTRON-like extravaganza, filled with sex appeal and sensuality, very unlike the original, which now sounds flat in comparison with this perfect version.
‘Monument’ steps in with fabulously innovative synth beats canvassing delicately mellow voices. It could not be more different from the Basildon boys’ blueprint. The structure of the song has been retained, and certain remix versions of the original can be recognised, yet the modern accents make it uniquely superb.
There is an underlying warmth, transforming the tune into a floating, dream-like tune, richly textured with architectural accents. Also exquisitely sublime is ‘Nothing To Fear’, which has all the elements of its DM precedent; modern digital beats are intertwined with the old wavetable synthesisers like the PPG Wave 2, which Martin Gore bought after the success of ‘Speak And Spell’ and DM would have used at Blackwing Studios on this track (and the rest of the album).
Next it’s the first single from ‘A Broken Frame’, ‘See You’, which Martin Gore wrote whilst still at school, and originally released in January 1982. A poppy and candy-coated version from MARSHEAUX is exactly what the doctor prescribed, lacking, however, the obvious beefy bass line DM provided on this record. Tonally, it sounds more like SHANK & BIGFOOT’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, rather than The Kings of Electronica’s version. This could potentially limit the likability factor for some, but it certainly increases the danceability element over its predecessor.
‘See You’ is excused with the exquisite ‘Satellite’. An atmospheric version of this reggae track, with a progressive sounding electronic theme, is as quirky, as it is un-laboured. The superb strings and ethereal rolling bassline with uncommon elements is astounding. The simplistic approach makes the track appear uncomplicated, yet one of a kind.
The ever so uplifting ‘The Meaning Of Love’ may not be DEPECHE MODE’s best loved tune, yet MARSHEAUX make it theirs by introducing fresh approach with interesting sound combinations and simple vocals, which have been pre-packed with effects equating to a bright pop song. The clean sounds of a rather well-executed ‘A Photograph Of You’ follow, which again, has all the elements of a good synthpop tune that is fuller and even more interesting than the original.
‘Shouldn’t Have Done That’ is probably the best track on the original DM album, a good indication as to what followed for the Basildon lads… and MARSHEAUX do not disappoint either. It’s a great use of familiar sounds with many more new ones added. Remarkable skill has been put into layering the synths and an unexpected ending with the marching sound DEPECHE MODE used substituted with bass beats.
The firm favourite from the album, ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ closes this listening pleasure with an utterly different approach to the song. With a bassline resembling AND ONE, and vocals vibrating alongside unique synth variations, this differs vastly from the more measured and sombre Dave version. Somehow the soul of this amazing tune drifts away until the very end, with some quite remarkable goodbye notes.
Released in 1982, ‘A Broken Frame’, being the DM transitional record and wholly unloved by DEPECHE MODE band members themselves, certainly deserved a re-evaluation. MARSHEAUX have used unconventional sounds and vocals to make this record their own, and in the sea of poorly executed Depeche covers, they are definitely swimming above most. Expressive, innovative and full of character, they denote exactly what this cover album is.
MARSHEAUX themselves said: “We know that it sounds strange to listen to ‘Leave In Silence’ and ‘My Secret Garden’ with female vocals. Even we feel surprised! But we hope that we give a whole new dimension to it. And we hope that you’ll love it as we did love it during the recording process”.
Many will say it is indeed vastly better than DEPECHE MODE themselves… will you?
A yellow vinyl LP is released on 23rd February 2015 via Undo Records, pre-order at
A double CD set with B-sides and an extended version of ‘A Broken Frame’ is set for release in Spring 2015
Text by Monika Izabela Goss
29th January 2015