Top positive review
Real rhythmic power
July 14, 2008
"Off" is an album I initially had mixed feelings about, due to the addition of Christine Kowalsky, whose vocals are punky, angsty, and obnoxious, and whose lyrics are occasionally quite cliched and cheesy. She isn't the only major difference between this album and classic 242, however; "Off" is definitely a stylistic switch in many ways.
First of all, the album is basically designed to function as one big long flowing 70 minute dance mix, with few obvious breaks between songs and plenty of reprised ideas. Although 242's music was always made with the dance floor in mind, on "Off" they pull out all the stops and switch into full-on rave mode, incorporating acid and trance bass-lines and arpeggiated synth lines left and right. I wasn't expecting this, but luckily they prove themselves damn good at it.
The production on this album is amazing. The psychedelic effects and general "huge" feel of it just keep sounding better and better as you turn up the volume knob. The beats will get you dancing almost instantaneously, even if you've never been to a rave before and are enjoying the music in the solitude of your bed room. Those who complain that 2003's come back album "Pulse" is too mellow and generally lacks life are likely referring to this album as proof- and while I love "Pulse", it's true, the difference is instantly obvious.
The album is full of beautiful synth noise. It actually forms into coherent singable melody far less often than on other 242 albums, but that doesn't seem to matter with the style they're pursuing here. The perfect example is the wonderful, blinding, vibrant, shining wash of "GenEcide" (likely my favorite track).
Typical 242 maintains an almost clinical, stoic maturity, owing in no small part to the personality of vocalist Jean Luc De Meyer. This is completely gone on "Off". It is not a mature album, emotionally or lyrically, and is full of no-holds-barred intensity. I am now able to appreciate Kowalsky's violent vocals, as they compliment the rhythmic energy of the album perfectly, although I almost considered knocking off a star for her overly simple lyrics (example: "Just get away, get away from me, 'cuz I'll never be what you want me to be!"). In the end, she doesn't make this album any less enjoyable, so I can't give it any less than a 5 star rating. She is actually fairly versatile as well, and when she decides to use a cleaner, more melodic tone, she sounds lovely (like in the aforementioned "GenEcide").
In conclusion, very few if any electronic albums can match "Off" for sheer rhythmic power and atmosphere. If the cheesy lyrics don't bother you (and they no longer bother me), this album is one hell of a ride from start to finish, especially if you play it loud. There are no weak tracks, and every song has something valuable to contribute to the whole. Oh yeah, and the version of "Melt" (from "Up Evil") on here is even better than the original, which was great.
Highly recommended for fans of Front 242 or any dance-oriented electronica, although the things that make this enjoyable are different than in other Front 242 material. 5 stars.