Thursday, 10 April 2014

Front 242 - Pulse (2003)

I loves me some Front 242, and I've been missing them ever since Tyranny (For You), which didn't sound that amazing in its day, but improved with plenty of repeat listening, somehow taking on the quality of a timeless classic in comparison to those two later albums named after phone numbers. Not that either 05:22:09:12 Off or 06:21:03:11 Up Evil were necessarily terrible, but aside from Serial Killers Don't Kill Their Girlfriend, I can't think of a decent track on either, and to be honest I can't even remember if I've heard 06:21:03:11 Up Evil or not. They sounded like - ugh, excuse my fucking French - dance remix albums, endless noodling around with tracks that should have been left aside from one of those crappy Alain I drink beer and I'm like really dangerous 'n' shit Jourgensen projects, silk purses turned to sow's ears as the engineer yawns, looks at his watch, and tries again for the millionth time with the snare sent through yet another effect in search of something that will stop the music sounding shit. It seemed a sorry end, not least once they began turning up to photo shoots in sweat pants and baseball caps with a rapper in tow, and not one of the good ones either. It all seemed a far cry from Official Version which, for me, remains one of the greatest electronic albums ever recorded.

Anyway, somehow I missed the more recent reunion and release of new material in the form of Pulse, but I'm here now. My expectations were low, as only seems natural, but happily I was way off the mark. Musically speaking, Front 242 were always more complex than just music for skinheads in aviator goggles marching up and down, often displaying a pseudo-classical compositional complexity, at least in comparison with all those po-faced Work! Obey! bands named after chemical manufacturing conglomerates; and it was never anything so simple as a sweaty man barking something suspiciously Nietzschean over a sequencer.

Their sheer range is amply demonstrated on Pulse which works its way through all of the variant moods which made Official Version such a momentous album, and adds some new flavours to the mix. Most surprising of all, at least to me, is the lengthy Seq666 - raw, thudding techno of the kind so beloved by disco biscuit consumers, which resembles genuine techno, and still sounds entirely like Front 242 rather than some saggy old industrial has-been trying desperately to hitch his grunting schtick to a more contemporary bandwagon because hey, it's a drum machine - how hard can it be?

Seq666 is seemingly to Pulse as W.Y.H.I.W.Y.G. was to Official Version and is as such followed by slower more contemplative pieces  hinting towards everything from jazz to church music, all held together with dynamics now suggesting Nine Inch Nails but which were originated right here - specifically those unique touches which could only have arisen from Daniel Bresanutti and Patrick Codenys - a certain attention to detail with the sounds employed, how they change and interact, a sense of precision with regard to tone and composition quite unlike the blunt instrument approach of most EBM types. Incredibly, Pulse was perhaps not only a return to form, but possibly their finest work. It's good to have them back, or at least it was in 2003 if you see what I mean.

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