As the true forefathers of electronic body music, it’s nearly impossible to imagine an industrial scene landscape without the influence and presence of Front 242. The legendary Belgian act has also been actively touring the world for 40 years; however, as the band was unable to tour in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to master and cut together tracks from various personal recordings and release a full album of the setlist from the 1991 tour supporting the Tyranny ►For You◄ album, simply titled USA 91. From the opening patterns in “Moldavia,” it is very evident that this recording absolutely captures the essence of a live Front 242 show. It is also interesting to recognize that while the song has become a live staple for the band, it was being performed on this tour for the first time, in addition to “Rhythm of Time,” “Soul Manager,” “The Untold,” and “Neurobashing,” as most of these tracks were unfamiliar to crowds at the time. Imagine being in the audience during this tour and hearing a performance of “Rhythm of Time” for the first time ever!
One of the most important elements of an EBM performance – and, by proxy, a 242 show – is the energy… feeling the sweat, bearing the heat, and feeling alive. It’s not about capturing a good recording as much as an authentic one. Front 242 has always considered the audience to be an extension of the band itself, with constant ad-libbing to fill in spaces that normally don’t feature vocals to keep the crowd engaged, and it’s amazing how well that is captured on these recordings. The signature snarls of Jean-Luc de Meyer interplaying with the energetic shouts from Richard 23 are as clear as if you were in the front row of some packed club in Chicago. There’s the singing of the “Jesus is here” samples when they finally get to “Welcome to Paradise,” or the crowd participation during “Headhunter,” which was a meager four-years-old at the time! USA 91 is one of many outstanding live recordings released by Front 242 over the years, as well as an interesting slice of the band’s history. The setlist could very easily be considered a “greatest hits,” and despite the majority of people being unable to experience this tour in an actual live setting, this recording provides the next best thing. May they “Never Stop” touring.