In isolated Australia in the early 80’s I completely missed Front 242. But to be fair to Oz I guess most people in most places missed Front 242. They weren’t a band that got anywhere near the charts even thought they shared musical ground with major pop acts like Depeche Mode & The Human League.
The League, DM and 242 shared the use of electronic instruments to create a kind of music that spoke to the sense of humanity and alienation. In the former artists this skewed more to the side of pop but in the case of Front 242 they took inspiration from some of the darker artists who had been working from the 70’s like Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV (you gotta love a guy called Genesis P Oriddge).
Front 242 weren’t alone in the tack they took as there were other artists like The Neon Judgement, mostly in Europe, creating a harder form of pop that while it still had it’s roots in Disco was prepared to explore the sense of alienation growing in youth living in the Plastic Age. Having a few other artists around allowed a “scene” to develop and so whilst most of us were hungering like wolves, cutting long stories short and getting lost in Cambodia there were people creating what would become Techno as we know it today only back then they called it Electronic Body Music or EBM.
Front 242’s No Comment has been released in several different versions. The one I initially had was the vinyl as per the cover above. Later I bought the upgraded CD release with the computer generated “beetle”. In my mind this is not the version you want. Or seeing it is the only one you will get (easily) then reformat the running order to match the initial release ass the album works better that way. Why?
The album starts with a couple of brutal track in Commando Mix and S.FR Nomenklatura. These are not pop songs or Disco as we knew them at the time but in there are all the basics of techniques that in a few years would drive albums as accessible as Michael Jackson’s “Bad”. This is where the revolution broke from uni labs into clubs. While I don’t much love where it went the early experiments in making anew style of music are compelling.
The later tracks are why I love this record as they balance the minimal, alienated, electronic backings with simple melodic hooks. This is exactly the same motif driven form that Trance uses to this day. Lovely Day (which is plain nasty/pretty), No Shuffle and Special Forces are too serious to be pure pop but too musical to be ignored even though they appear to be doing their best to say this isn’t music as you know it.
If you are into Techno, Trance or any of those modern forms and you haven’t dug up Front 242, The Neon Judgement and other Play It Again Sam artists then you don’t know what you are missing. These are the guys who made what you do today possible, more so perhaps even that Kraftwerk!