Front 242


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Listening to Geography in the 21st century is a surprising experience in ways; one can tell exactly who's making the music, but things were still incredibly different at the start for Front 242. That said, the edge of the band is fully present, but the sheer amped-up level of brute aggression isn't. As a self-consciously modernist electronic body music act, though, Front 242 made a good debut, with a lot of the familiar elements of the group -- de Meyer's disembodied, passionless voice, Codenys and Daniel B's ears for threatening atmospherics -- in place. The Depeche Mode comparisons are understandable (check out the synth stabs and general pace of "U-Men" for a good example) but not perfectly accurate. Lyrically, Front 242's focus is mostly turned well away from love and religious imagery in favor of cryptic threats, though the THX 1138-sampling "GVDT" is calm and playful enough to imagine David Gahan singing it. A good demonstration of where Front 242 was at can be heard with the first two songs. While "Operating Tracks" adds enough white noise and full percussion slams to indicate the future, "With Your Cries" isn't all that removed from what Kraftwerk had already done. From there the quartet keep bouncing back and forth, sometimes offering up flashes of real inspiration but often indulging in the kind of random noodling that gave early-'80s industrial/dance music something of a bad name. That a number of the tracks are fragmentary instrumentals doesn't help, though they can make for nice enough mood music, and the rough recording quality actually helps in that regard. The 1992 reissue does a great job in pumping up the sound and giving it a fresh edge, while also including three rare tracks. "Ethics" is a nicely murky B-side, but the real fun comes from both sides of the group's 1981 debut single. To say they're both derivative of early Cabaret Voltaire would put it mildly -- even guitars are heard! -- though it is interesting hearing the original version of "Body to Body."

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