Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Broken Frame - Then And Now

From time to time, apart from concert reviews, I also post album reviews on this blog. Not everything I buy of course, just those ones that are special to me. "A Broken Frame" by Marsheaux definitely falls into that category. It's not a "covers album", but instead a "cover album". An exact, track-by-track cover of the the second album by Depeche Mode from 1982.
However, what I'm going to do here is not a review of it, but instead a parallel, side-by-side review of both albums. Depeche Mode and Marsheaux. For the sake of consistency this review is based on the vinyl versions. Since then Marsheaux have released a 2CD version which features the b-sides of that era ("Now This Is Fun" and "Oberkorn (It's A Small Town)") plus extended versions of all Broken Frame tracks.
The sticker on the Marsheaux album states that you should listen to the Depeche Mode original first. Well I have listened to it several times since 1982 when I first bought it, but this was a good opportunity to listen to it again in order to refresh my memory.
It all starts with the song everybody remembers from this album "Leave In Silence" (Alison Moyet's favourite DM track at that time as she has stated in an interview). Now, I've read somewhere that it might be weird to listen to some songs from this album with female vocals, especially "Leave In Silence". I completely disagree with this statement, I think that the whole of this album is particularly suited to female vocals. And anyway on this song, this is partially taken care of. The "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh"'s of the intro are sung by a male (I assume by producer Nick from Fotonovela and Mikro as I've noticed on their recent gig). This track is also proof that this album is definitely NOT an exact cut-and-paste replica of the original. The most obvious example: On the DM original, just before the chorus, after the "I would stop this, I would set the wheels in motion" bit there are four distinct notes played on the synth, which you will most certainly remember if you are familiar with the track. Well, these notes are nowhere to be seen on the Marsheaux version!
Next comes "My Secret Garden" another one of my favourite tracks and no, I cannot decide which version I like better.

On the other hand "Monument", "Satellite" and "Shouldn't Have Done That" were my least favourite tracks on the original album. (I liked the lyrics of "Satellite" very much, but I wasn't very keen on its music). Surprisingly enough, these are the tracks that Marsheaux have, in my opinion, significantly improved. No wonder they chose "Monument" as the single!
Next comes the "Nothing To Fear", which as I've already mentioned in my live review is, along with "Moon Over Moscow" by Visage my favourite synth-pop instrumental. And Marsheaux prove they can do a good cover and improve on it even without vocals.
There were two more singles on the original album "See You" and "The Meaning Of Love", the former far superior to the latter and so is the case here. "The Meaning Of Love" is the one that has been more radically reworked (to my humble ears at least) by Marsheaux.
It's time now for my favourite song from the album "A Photograph Of You". Still is, on both versions. Someone has suggested that the lyrics were maybe a bit naive, especially when compared with what Depeche Mode did later. However, a few years after that, A Flock Of Seagulls had a hit with "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)". Every time I heard it it reminded me of the DM song. I think they both tell a similar story, but Depeche Mode tell it better and they did it first!
What's left is the closing track "The Sun And The Rainfall". Now this was a song I had completely forgotten and I had to listen to the DM album to remember it. A very good tune, but once again, the Marsheaux version is better.
Obviously, if you want to delve deeper into the music of Marsheaux you would have to check their own work (their latest album is "Inhale" from 2013 and there is also a retrospective of their career so far available called "Odyssey"). But "A Broken Frame" sparked renewed interest in them in different parts of the world which resulted in more gigs abroad. They had already performed successfully in the UK and Germany, but this year they've already played in Poland and are due to appear in Sweden and... yes, Peru!
So best wishes and good luck to them and we hope they'll be back next year with a brand new album!

Side A:
01. Leave In Silence
02. My Secret Garden
03. Monument
04. Nothing To Fear
05. See You
Side B:
06. Satellite
07. The Meaning Of Love
08. A Photograph Of You
09. Shouldn't Have Done That
10. The Sun And The Rainfall

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