On a recent “trip down memory lane” to some good old EBM I listened to the “Neurodancer” version of Front 242’s “Tragedy For You” again for the first time in years and boy, what a track. Truly one for my “songs to play loud” series. 🙂
This is a brutally stripped down version of “Tragedy for you” from their “Tyranny for you” album from 1991. Essentially, they removed all the lyrics, kept the percussion and basslines, and layered effects over it, letting most of them bleed out into long washes of feedback-ridden delay. They kept one “melody break” if you really want to call it that, and further in there’s some high-pitched staccato sounds. The track is almost minimal, but also has a ton of energy. It’s part of my jogging playlist and perfect for pushing me further.
And it’s simply awesome because of these sounds. “Techno” was pretty much in its infancy back then, and it sounded simply ridiculous. The same percussion sounds from Roland’s “TR” series of drum machines (most often the 909), some effects, it didn’t have to make sense as long as it had a 4/4 beat in.
By comparison, here are Front 242 with their finely engineered electronic sounds and they’re simply light years ahead of anything that was released as “techno” at that time – mature, dark, hard, polished. The bassdrum sounds a bit strange at first because it doesn’t have that much deep “umph” but once the bassline kicks in, it’s easy to see why they made that choice – the drum stands out in the mix fairly well, above this 1/16th of a note staccato inferno wall of a bassline. This needs to be played loud because the bass needs to be a physical presence and I could swear that this barrage of bass has an effect on my heartbeat.
Remember, this is a track that was released 27 years ago. More story below the video.
Now where to begin, and how. With Front 242, obviously – in the late 80ies a friend introduced me to their music, back in Germany of course. I think one of the first tracks that I heard was the “Masterblaster” version of “Masterhit” – besides the fact that I liked the hard electronic sounds, I found it quite intriguing how they had different versions of the same songs (I guess today they could be called remixes), and how they had a fan base strong enough to release those different versions.
Now the LP version of Masterhit (from the 1987 “Official Version” album, which is probably still the best album they ever made) was nice – but Masterblaster was just a notch better. That electronic-drum solo followed by the fanfare-break about 2/3 into the song is just sheer bliss (it’s part of my selection of tracks that I listen to while jogging, and when that passage of the song plays, I always feel a little “high”). At the time my friend introduced me to Front 242, their “Front by Front” album (1988) was out already too – best known for the track “Headhunter“, most likely. And then there was the long wait until 1991, when “Tyranny For You”, their fourth full-length album, was finally released.
Before that though, bands used to whet everyone’s appetite with a single/EP release, and Front’s pick as the single from the then-upcoming Tyranny For You album was the Tragedy For You track, released late in 1990. What they did though was to release two singles – and I happened to accidentally buy the “Tragedy For You Two” release which contained the “Neurodancer” mix of the track as the main feature.
The album version (which I didn’t know yet when I bought the single) would contain lyrics and a somewhat traditional verse/refrain concept – “Neurodancer” was free from that, took the sounds and effects of the album version, and turned them into this brooding black chrome wall of sound.
While I usually like the “master release” approach on Discogs, in this case it created an insane mess – all the different single/EP releases of Tragedy For You are stuffed into a single “Master Release”. I understand it’s not easy to file these correctly but when there’s ZERO overlap in tracks between Tragedy For You and Tragedy For You Two should they really be in one master release? Hmmmm… I guess the US version is to blame, because it combines all different versions of the track into a single release… 😛
I guess for those of us who really like music, it always has an emotional component as well. Sometimes we need music to support our emotions – either lift us up when we’re down, further a good mood, or maybe even drag us down to help hit rock bottom. And sometimes, we simply need to block emotions. I certainly do.
Needless to say, this track is one of my emotion blockers. When I feel emotionally frail, this combination of aggressive high energy with somewhat martial, dark, industrial coolness may be just right to get me out of a rut and rumination – it’s like steamrollering my sometimes depressive tendencies, burying them under this wall of bass, and then getting a kick in the butt by the sheer amount of energy.
Anything that helps, right? 🙂