Religion Review

Tracklist RRE 16 CD

Tracklist RRE 16 CDR

Front 242 have been keeping a low profile for the last couple of years. After the success of 1991's Tyranny >For You< which saw the group close to breaking out of the New Beat ghetto into a more commercially viable arena they vanished off the face of the earth, with only an "official bootleg" live album late last year to remind us they were still alive.

They've apparently undergone changes during their time away - gone is Richard 23, gone is the all-synthesiser sound. In their place we have Jean-Marc and Pierre Pauly and a considerably harder sound featuring guitars and heavily distorted vocals.

Two versions of this CD single have been released. The first contains the basic 7" mix plus three remixes by J.G "Foetus" Thirlwell, the second contains two remixes of "Religion" by The Prodigy and two Orb remixes of the track "Crapage" from the first of their two forthcoming albums.

The first disc is easily the better of the two. Perhaps my bias against remixes is showing, but the original 7" mix is, to my mind, easily the best track on either of the two CDs. "Religion", while exhibiting many easily recognisable Front 242 touches (shades of "Headhunter" in the beat, machine-gun percussion bursts, Belgian accent on the vocals etc), is a much harder track than anything the group have released to date, featuring heavily distorted vocals and copious (sampled) guitars. This is regrettable from one point of view, since some of the group's individuality has been lost and they've moved a little closer to that generic Revolting 242 Inch Assembly Nails sound. From another viewpoint though, many of the changes are positive - "Religion" is one of the most intense tracks 242 have ever done and it also features something recognisable as a tune, which is a reverse of the direction they appeared to be taking on their last album.

The Foetus remixes are all a bit samey - they take the basic track, add some big thumpy "industrial" percussion, turn the guitars up a couple of notches and let go. Oh, and the "Lovelace A Go-Go" mix throws in a bunch of porn movie dialogue samples for good measure. Other than that, none of the mixes really differs from each other. In their defence, it does have to be said that all of the mixes eventually become recognisable as the basic track, it's just the routes they take to get there that vary (but not much).

With the basic CD single having covered dance-industrial territory fairly thoroughly, it's left to the remix disc to cover the more mainstream dance genre. The first Prodigy mix is truly ghastly, managing to turn a rather good song into an identikit piece of commercial hardcore techno, complete with ridiculous beat and awful squawky electronic noises. The second Prodigy remix suffers a similar fate but at least the bleepy rhythm makes an effort to fit in with the original track so it isn't swamped/mauled quite as badly. It's still pretty bad though.

It's difficult to say much about the two Orb remixes, since the original track on which they are based has yet to be released. The first remix is relatively unstructured, relaxed ambience with snippets of vocal popping through here and there and a subdued beat eventually appearing. By the sounds of it, it's a pretty drastic remix and as such gives little or no indication of what the original track is like. The same applies to the second, which doesn't really go anywhere much or do anything worthy of mention.

Overall, the first disc is definitely the one to buy. The tracks on the remix disc are either completely inconsequential (the Orb remixes), completely awful ("Bass Under Siege Mix") or completely so-so ("Trance U Down Mix"). As such the disc is really only for either the 242 completist or the Prodigy or Orb remix afficionado. The first disc isn't exactly astonishing either, with the Thirlwell mixes being rather samey and only the original mix really standing out. All in all, a bit disappointing, especially since the basic track is so good.

RRE CD 16 - Erland Rating: +1
RRE CD 16R - Erland Rating: +0

Al Crawford (