Front 242 is a Belgian electronic music act credited with helping pioneer the electronic body music scene (or EBM for short), a spinoff of industrial music which sprung up around the 1980's. Their fusion of pulsating, repetitive beats, intricate percussion and nihilistic, subversive themes would see them become a huge influence over electronic artists and industrial acts alike, 1988's Front By Front often lauded as one of their best works.
From the opening track Until Death (Us Do Part)
to the albums closer Work 242
the bands mission is made clear, to offer a thick slab of uniform material that doesn't change all that much throughout but remains interesting enough to captivate the listeners attention. Indeed, Front by Front is very rhythmic centered, every track built around clunky, square basslines weaving in and out of repetitive percussion whilst electronic synths and samples provide the musical dynamics. The band manages to keep this sounding fresh for the most part, whilst vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer's vocals are delivered in a gravelly english that recalls other european acts such as Laibach (yet not quite so pronounced). With it's undeniable (and occasionally cheesy) old school groove the feel of the album sounds more then a little like something what the bridge between Kraftwerk and Skinny Puppy might be, the endlessly creative potential of electronic music finding it's foot in the realms of post-modern angst. It works.
was the big single from the album (two versions appear on the 1992 reissue, since it's release it has been subject to over 20 remixes), and whilst every track has it's merit the standout to me is Welcome to Paradise
, perhaps the most poignant use of subversive criticism on the album as it ridicules the church through abusing samples of televangalist Farrell Griswold. It is a thrilling listen, and an industrial classic in it's own right. Some of the tracks here are weaker then others, but the album flows along pretty well for its entire duration.
Front by Front is an essential listen to those wanting to broaden their horizons in the realms of electronic and industrial music by looking at one of the bigger names to claim real influence, which unfortunately may perhaps outweigh the actual value of their output by todays standards for some. For others who believe certain eras of music are timeless however, and dislike the idea that music could ever sound dated Front By Front will be a satisfying listen.