17 July 2008
Dreamt about being in Thailand and going to see a Front 242 gig - "Hey Poor, You Don't Have To Be Poor Anymore! Jee-sus Is Here!" - they were really good, just like I remembered them; the hardest working snaredrums and hardest sounding hi-hats in the business at the time, the best drum programmers bar none - none of the leaden Wax Trax / RevCo / NiN contingent ever managed to make the machines sound so malevolent.
Okay, the odd dodgy vocal. Okay, they got a little carried away with all those people buying that t-shirt with the swimmer on it. Okay, they ended up chasing the same tails ass Portion Control and 23 Skidoo a few years earlier; following the followers but...
As ever, with dreams, you get sucked in. I woke up and found some Front 242 and stuck it on my i-pod for the walk to work; neurobashing myself into submission, letting it carry me; music for stomping over James fans, for headbutting yer ski goggles off, body-beating music which is --------------
-------------- Great to walk to work; normally I have to put up with some Venetian Snares like spazzout that puts me in a shifty mood and dealigns my spine or else some elegaic droney folk which sets me off dreaming in another dimension but gets caught short when I turn the i-pod off and face the terrible reality of timetable management programmes or Excel deathsheets (Yep, the students are away but I've still got a week to go). Front 242 gets you going, sets you up for the urban sprawl, makes cities out of crappy towns like this one.
I arrived at work fully charged and decided to investigate further - I hadn't heard anything by or from them in years and certainly not consciously thought about them so I figured maybe some subliminals were at work here, a poster advertising a live appearance, a new album... I'd not paid any attention since the very early 90s and figured they were on a still downward slope but I stuck their name into Google nonetheless, just to see...
"In the past 20 years, the use of computers has drastically transformed music production; in this way, creation is totally integrated thanks to user-friendly technology.
FRONT 242 come from a different era, when working with electronic music was difficult. The machines were hostile and humans needed to interact strongly with synthesizers to master their art. Music required discipline."
Which annoyed me so much I barely noticed anything else all morning. Okay, slight overreaction perhaps but... Jesus, when was difficulty something to be yearned for, to be fetishised? Okay, maybe that was partly the point of Front 242 but still, sounds like it could have been written by Steve Vai or Eric Clapton. Yeah, it's probably true that the old electronic artists struggle with their equipments limitations brought about some interesting accidents but to eulogise that struggle in and of itself? The new equipment can be abused as well, can't it? Doesn't have to lead to easy options and quick cop-outs? There's people out there still struggling to find new forms, aren't there?
Sure, Front 242 played their rudimentary drum machines better than anyone, found wholly different ways of slicing beats apart (I struggled witha DR-550 and RX7for a number of years, eventually making some terrible sub New Beat nonsense with lyrics about turning into horses - maybe I'll try and dig it out and send it to Nick for his Bleepfiend project) but to suggest that I, a priori, couldn't have done a better job with slightly easier programming seems absurd.
I can understand the analogue = warmth angle a little better but that wasn't what Front 242 were about, was it?
I dunno, to me it sounds like the old guys are just bitching (cf Glastonbury Festival!!!) and moaning about how the youngsters have got it easy, yet another variation on the age-old/old-age Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen (Of The Apocalypse?)sketch - "Oh, we used to dream of livin' in a corridor! Would ha' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh."
Still, they are still going, playing at Infest in Bradford - Home of Darkwave, no less and I am curious as to what they might still have to offer, now that their knees will need more padding.