Front Line Assembly Surprised Us All with a Cover of “Rock Me Amadeus”
The 80’s were a long time ago. But you wouldn’t know it if you look at media over the last couple of years. 80’s nostalgia has become a movement. In art, it comes in the form of vaporwave. In music, you hear it in synthwave. In film, you see it in a resurgence of 80’s era reboots and sequels. And of course in video games you see it in modern games that utilize 8-bit and 16-bit pixel-art graphical styles and gameplay.
I want to state for the record that I love all of this. I was a child in the 80’s. My childhood is infused with, and inseparable from, 80’s culture. However, at that time, mainstream popular culture, as attractive as it is now, was really kind of gaudy and awful. And that was the perception of the 80’s for several of the proceeding decades. And indeed, even during that time there were those who hated all the bright, flashy, colorful. . .ness of everything.
But in 2019, we are now so distant from the 80’s that indulgence in the visual and audio aesthetics of that time period have become something of an alternative to our own current mainstream culture. And it may say something about how bad mainstream culture in 2019 is that we would embrace the gaudy, over-the-top culture of 80’s as an escape.
Front Line Assembly is a band who was there in the 80’s as well. Formed the very year “Rock Me Amadeus” was released in fact, FLA was an “80’s band,” albeit a very different one. They reperesented the other side of the 80’s pop-culture coin.
They and contemporaries like Skinny Puppy, Front 242, KMFDM, and Ministry, were part a new wave of industrial music in the 80’s. The dark and gritty cyberpunk alternative to the bright, cheery, party-like atmospheres seen and heard in the works of various artists, musicians, tv shows, films, and (especially) advertisements.
All of this showcases the irony that Front Line Assembly would cover Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus.” The song is an iconic 80’s hit and synonymous with the aforementioned bright and cheery 80’s pop culture. It begs one to consider whether it is being done for satire. Fortunately the band has made an amazing music video for the song, which seems to clue us in a little more.
You can’t deny the dark, unsettling undertones present here. Produced and directed by Jason Alacrity, the video features very 80’s looking characters hanging out around an old Sony CRT which features none other than Mindless Self Indulgence frontman Jimmy Urine, who also provides vocals for the song.
And Jimmy is an obvious nod to Max Headroom as he is featured throughout the video as a disembodied, digital singing head. The presence of Jimmy Urine itself is probably an indicator that things aren’t what they seem.
Yet throughout the first few minutes of the video we’re treated to the 80’s people doing very 80’s things. Hanging out on beaches in red bathing suits, swinging on swings, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, all the while clad in their 80’s attire. Still, something seems off about them.
Sure enough, at 2:31 in the video the entire mood changes when a pair of human skulls show up. Things degenerate from there as you’re suddenly treated to a series of “buffering glitches,” which appear in various parts of the video. At one time a very common occurrence before the era of high speed interenet access, it is easily mistaken for a problem with your internet bandwidth before you realize what’s going on.
One by one the 80’s-esque characters begin disintegrating amidst the buffering glitches. Once or twice characters faces even glitch off, grotesquely revealing skulls underneath. All the while Jimmy Urine is chanting that catchy-as-hell melody.
Musically, the song is an intense, bass-heavy industrial track set to the mood and tune of a truly iconic song from the 80’s. Jimmy Urine raps in German so smoothly, you’d believe he was as Austrian as Falco himself.
Whether done in satire or in sincere tribute (if not both), the song and its video are amazing. “Rock Me Amadeus” is featured on Front Line Assembly’s new album Wake Up the Coma, which was just released just yesterday on February 8th, 2019.