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A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward, Songs of Faith and Devotion

A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward, and Songs of Faith and Devotion (Rhino / Mute / sire / Reprise)

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Dec. 15, 2006

Depeche Mode

A Broken Frame (Rhino/Mute/Sire/Reprise)

Depeche Mode

Some Great Reward (Rhino/Mute/Sire/Reprise)

Depeche Mode

Songs of Faith and Devotion (Rhino/Mute/Sire/Reprise)

Phases and Stages
Unlike summer reissues Violator and Music for the Masses, this trio of albums do not, by and large, represent Depeche Mode's best work. Appended with bonus discs of short films, 5.1 mixes, and bonus tracks, each nonetheless captures the UK synth trio/quartet at a pivotal moment in its 26-year career. 1982's A Broken Frame, though slight and forgettable, was Martin Gore's bow as songwriter-in-chief after Vince Clarke's departure. UK Top 10 "See You," "The Meaning of Love," and instrumental "Nothing to Fear" retain some value as electro-pop period pieces, "Monument" and "Satellite" as textural experiments that would blossom later on. Some Great Reward ('84) is their first fully realized LP, aided by the addition of third (!) keyboardist Alan Wilder and Gore's vastly improved songwriting. "People Are People" was a transatlantic Top 20, while "Somebody," "Blasphemous Rumors," and "Master and Servant" regularly show up live even now. By 1993, DM was on top of the world critically and commercially and barely speaking personally. Gore and singer Dave Gahan's love of grunge inspired the former to write with guitars and live drums, and the latter to certain habits that had some wags calling Songs of Faith and Devotion the "smack album." Although its drugs-or-Jesus domain evinces greatness – "Walking in My Shoes," "Condemnation," "Rush" – things were headed downhill fast. Wilder quit after the Devotional tour, and Gahan was (briefly) declared legally dead in 1996. Thus began nearly a decade in the musical wilderness that only ended with 2005's triumphant Playing the Angel.

(Broken Frame) **

(Some Great Reward) ***

(Songs of Faith and Devotion) ****

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