Finally, I have to pay some attention to a few remix collections that have appeared, though purist fans will want me to stop here. Mut@ge Mix@ge from 1995 compiles a number of the mixes and alternate versions from the early 90s singles and Eps. It’s a mish-mash stylistically, throwing Orb and Prodigy ‘extreme overhauls’ alongside more convention ‘in house’ remixes. It’s cash-in opportunism. Inevitably, the most interesting content are the mixes hardest to obtain anywhere else – Underworld deliver two very different versions of ‘Happiness’ that take that iconic descending synth line and take it in radically different directions in each case. Not quite “worth it for this alone” but there’s plenty of copies lurking on the 2nd-hand market.
1998 saw the release of Headhunter 2000. No, that’s right. Marketing people were sticking the number ‘2000’ or the phrase ‘millennium’ into everything back then. Front 242 didn’t recreate or rework the original song for the occasion, but rather got a sizeable roster of contemporary artists to deliver remixes of the original. Several versions of this release are available, again requiring multiple purchases to get a completion – but the key mixes (good and bad) are available on all of them. Covering them all is beyond the scope of this piece, but I think I can best sum this release by looking at the extremes.
First the upside. Empirion, a band more notable for their remixes than their body of original work, bring in one of their cold, hard tech basslines and use it to transform the song into a seven-minute epic, retaining all the catchy refrains and then taking them up several notches in intensity. Also (and much derided as it is) Apoptygma Berzerk make a better job than any would admit into adding a trance breakdown and making the track fit for the emerging ‘futurepop’ sound. On the downside, acts like Haujobb and Space Frog almost totally ignore the original tune and issue unrelated electronic compositions with a few samples from the original grafted on. It always annoyed me how “hard dance DJs pretending to play industrial” used to play the Space Frog remix and then claim “look, I still play Front 242”. No, you’re playing Space Frog. Quit trying to redefine what “EBM” means.
There hasn’t been much remixing action in the interim – the standalone “remix album” fad of the late 1990s seemingly passed. The trend now is to offer the remixes as the second CD of a 2CD limited edition, and the lack of new material from the band has limited this potential. There was a brief flurry of activity in 2016, when a remastered version of “Take One” appeared, followed by a remix contest. Half a dozen mixes made the cut to form Detox Static EP. Thankfully, the ‘rip it up and start again’ school of remixing is now over, but whilst these versions are interesting enough, there’s no real ‘spark’ of inspiration that actually takes the original track to another level.