Genre: Industrial Year: 2003 Country: Belgium Official Site: Front 242 Details: Tracks & Audio Label: Metropolis Records
For the past several years, Front 242 fans have had to make do with live albums as everyone's favorite EBM grandfathers took a little time off. The gang is back with not one, but two offerings: the full-length Pulse and the Still and Raw EP.
The six-song EP Still and Raw is surprisingly the better and more coherent effort. This is the straightforward, dark dance all Front 242 fans expect (and that's been aped by newer bands like Apoptygma Berzerk and Covenant.) The tunes are a bit more down-tempothink "Tragedy for You"but the familiar mix of heavily-accented vocals and staccato beats still glide over the rich synth backdrop. Still and Raw is a welcome reminder that there's still a place for dark dance music in between the harshness of newer industrial/EBM/powernoize groups, all mechanized vocals and militaristic beats, and lighter synthpop and flowery goth.
But do take note of tracks like "Collision," a meandering, near instrumental piece on the EP. Electrical pulses splay out along a simple keyboard line with indistinct chanting vocals lost somewhere in the mix. Now, listen to the full-length Pulse for 20 more tracks like that. Most are instrumental electronic pieces, marrying 242's recognizable keyboards-and-drum machine marches with the more meandering nature experimental electronica and IDM. While I'm all for experimentationbring on the spaced-out button-pushing jams of Aphex TwinFront 242's harder, industrial version is just repetitive.
The first track just goes on and onuntil you realize it's actually five interrelated songs, a pointless experimental exercise that results in nothing but eroded patience on behalf of the listener. As if to reward you for staying on to track 6, "Together" is a more predictable vocal song that'd be at home on the Still and Raw EP. Then comes the whispery horror of "Triple X Girlfriend," the closest thing to a slow-jam you'll ever hear from an industrial band. This unevenness continues throughout the rest of the CDgood songs, followed by uninteresting instrumentals, punctuated every so often by something thoroughly awful.
While it's admirable that Front 242 aren't afraid to explore new avenues, it's a shame they didn't find something more interesting while they were traipsing about. Stick with the EP Still and Raw; the full-length Pulse is for 242 completists only.