July 3, 2006
I've got a lot of 242 albums, and the one that gets the most play is their most recent studio album, "Pulse." This record and its companion tend to sit in my CD wallets for months on end.
I popped this puppy back into the CD player today, and felt compelled to write this review.
The sound on this album is really interesting. The production, for starters, sounds as if Front 242 were trying to take on the production values of "Psalm 69" by Ministry, which is strange indeed. De Meyer's and 23's vocals are aggressive and grainy, and the vast layers of sound sometimes melt and flow with each other. The album's style is also worth mentioning. I often thought of this album as Front's attempt to create a commercially successful record, but no more. Despite the appearance of some tradtional rock structures, Daniel's and Patrick's masterful electronics pulse with energy, bright synthesizers chirping above their ultra-heavy beats. The basslines are gorgeous, the guitar sounds fit well. The music has an epic, rushing, revolutionary militant style, totally different from the sounds of "Offical Version," "Front by Front," or "Tyranny >For You<."
On top of all this masterful programming, De Meyer's lyrics and vocals are, I would argue, in top form. His voice has a much better studio sound than live, in my opinion, and even here, in 1993, a decade after the band's birth, his voice had not yet become a stylized trademark of the industrial sound. He sounds like a person here, and his lyrics... oh, his lyrics...
On the opener "Crapage," a huge, stomping, fast, killer song with grainy vocals, De Meyer sings tribute to some ideal political leader, a great, peaceful man or woman, whose great military prowess is required, a power that will crush any evil that opposes it. De Meyer expresses his confidence in his leader, summoning that unknown strength which the world so needs.
And this song is typical of the rhythm and power of this album. Themes of internal conflict and Front 242's trademark vague aggression recur, but don't feel stale here but new and awesome. Track 6, "Stratoscape," is your first break from the intensity, but the beautiful programming of this track won't let you go. "Hymn," the next song, brings the military, revolutionary theme back, with THE most epic chorus I have ever heard. Listen carefully! You only get to hear it once in all its glory.
From there, the album takes on a slightly different tone, a darker and more brooding sound, almost hearkening back to "Official Version." But the nonvocal mix of "Crapage" and the insane "Pussy Whipped Mix" of "Religion" will soon get your mental boots stomping again, your passion for revolution reignited.
If you're a 242 fan, this album might throw you off at first. Stick with it, and you will be rewarded.
If you aren't, this album is a great piece of music. I can recommend it to you if you're a fan of metal, punk, industrial, or even radio-oriented rock. Front 242 are a great, great band, and this album is a mostly accessible epic gem.
Oh, and as for the title of the album, it's easy to figure out. 01=A, 02=B, etc.
While you might think the deciphered title to be a little juvenile, unnecessary, or offensive... it IS the overall theme of the album!