Front 242

Pulse

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Front 242 never allowed the commercial world to embrace them, pulling back from the brink in 1993 with a pair of radical, difficult albums just as the rest of middle America appeared ready to embrace the industrial darlings of 120 Minutes. Since they undoubtedly had little to fear from the mainstream circa 2003 -- ten years after their last discernible studio album -- the trio returned to their vision of detached but hooky industrial angst with Pulse. The record begins with "SEQ666," a five-track suite of gritty, hi-res EBM instrumentals -- slightly updated, with the help of Cubase, but clearly recognizable and pure joy to fans of mid-'80s classics like Official Version. Following are a few tracks of thematic pop ("Together," "Triple X Girlfriend") and an able evocation of the era when Front 242 were the kings of grim, catchy Teutonic angst ("Headhunter," "Tragedy [For You]"). The rest of the record is muddled, taken up by extended, multi-track suites that prove the trio's continued programming prowess but are also as inscrutable as much of the material on their most difficult record (1993's 05:22:09:12 Off). Similar to the return of industrial kingpins Ministry a few months earlier, though, Pulse sounds like the record Front 242 wanted to make, the type they could make only once the pressure was off.

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