The Front
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The Front


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The best kept secret in music


"The Front - "Signs of Life" (Review)"

The Front--a local band that consists of MCs Jarrett Martineau and Benjamin Arce (of the Lost Tribes of the Sun collective), drummer Jess Conn-Potegal, bassist Patrick Quine, and keyboardist Allan Ollivierre--makes hip-hop music for grown folks. The group's debut album, Signs of Life, is a poignant, mature work that takes all the elements that give you that "ahh, yeah" feeling--the lyrical virtuosity, the witty wordplay, the political outspokenness, the straight-up passion--and abandons the tired materialism, machismo, and mass-produced beats that tend to drag down the genre. The project's rhymes have emotional depth and intellectual grip; the mellow scores drip with jazz, funk, and soul influences.

The disc's standout tracks include "Born At All", a dark meditation on modern life that offsets sharp, staccato rhymes with a dreamy soundscape. With its comforting hook and contemplative vibe, "Relax" is remarkable, as is "Hi-fi", an artful sonic collage of scratches, samples, and drums. The highlight of the album is "Truth to the Rhythm", which provides a piercing comment on the chaos of current times. The track includes a phone interlude, during which two friends discuss their feelings of despair and depression. The interchange is so touching, with its potent mix of pain, love, and hope, that it's enough to bring a person to tears. In this era where fantasy reigns supreme, having the balls to make music that confronts reality is no small feat. To The Front: keep doing you. - The Georgia Straight

"The Front - "Signs of Life" (Review)"

Real classy, with nice, minimalist beats and understated but strong hooks...The lyrics sound more like well-thought-out rhymes than some excited MC freestyling poorly. Oh, and the mix is incredibly right. Closer to Blackalicious, Lyrics Born and Jurassic 5 than the Roots, the Front have made a simple record with respectable lyrics and refined musicianship.
NNNN / out of 5
- JASON RICHARDS - NOW Magazine (Toronto)

"The Front - "Signs of Life" (Review)"

By Andy Lee (2004)

The debut from Vancouver’s the Front shows that hip-hop is alive and well on the West Coast. Similar to Van City peers Sweatshop Union, the Front deliver a refreshing blend of beats and intelligent rhymes. MCs Jarrett Martineau and Benjamin Arcé split microphone duties while the remaining three members deliver a series of grooves, from the electro-funk opener “Power Theme” to the brooding “Born At All” and the cinematic “Sleeper Cell.” The disc even includes a bonus track of soulful house featuring crooning female vocals. Don’t front on the Front. - Exclaim Magazine

"The Front Hope To Ride Buzz To Bigger And Better Things "

After winning CiTR's Shindig battle of the bands in 2003, The Front set out to record their debut. Released independently in 2004, Signs Of Life received favourable press across the country and helped establish the Vancouver hip-hop ensemble as one of the West Coast's top up-and-coming urban acts.

Comprised completely of live instrumentation, The Front utilized bass, drums, keyboards and the sharp rhyming skills of their two MCs to create Signs Of Life's 10 terrific tracks. Mixing thought-provoking lyrics with hip-hop, soul and funk, Signs Of Life would definitely appeal to fans of Jurassic 5 and Blackalicious. MC Jarrett Martineau states that the quintet decided to do the record on their own because they felt they'd be better off building a buzz on their own as opposed to sitting and waiting for labels to call them. Although they've built a strong local following, The Front are now looking to hook up with a label or distribution company to help them gain more national exposure.

"We released Signs Of Life independently because we wanted to get it out there and didn't want to wait around hoping that some record label would put it out," explains Martineau. "We sold out of our initial pressing really quickly, which was great, and have since reissued it. We haven't really pushed it that hard to labels or distributors because in the last year we've been focused on playing shows and working the local scene. It's tough getting the word out beyond that though without label support or distribution, so now we've started sending it out to indie labels and distributors to see if we can get Signs Of Life officially released in Canada and get out on tour to support it."

While waiting to see whether it'll be picked up, the band have headed back into the studio to record an EP which they hope to release this spring. The material will be the first to feature new bass and guitar player Patrick Quine. According to Martineau, the group have added a lot more electronic elements to their sound and are trying to create heavier, more groove-oriented songs. Along with this, he and fellow MC Benjamin Arce have been working on expanding their writing process to ensure that their social commentaries remain just as dynamic as the music.

"From a lyrical perspective, Ben and I are trying to write songs that have common narrative threads through them," he says. "The themes are similar, but our approach is more varied. I think we've really tried to resist the commercial hip-hop song conventions. Our songs are more about individual struggles — living, working and trying to stay focused and positive despite the setbacks we all face."

The goal of the EP, Martineau says, is to capture the mood that The Front create on stage.

"The main thing we're trying to do is to get our recorded sound to have the energy of our live shows," he says. "The new EP will be so hot that we'll have to work the other way around to get the live show sounding as banging as the record. That's going to be a fun turn of events."

—Shawn Despres -

"The Front - "Signs of Life" (Review)"

"is this the next urban breakout from Vancouver?"
***1/2 / 5

- Stuart Derdeyn - Vancouver Province

"The Front on CBC Radio3"

The Front performs live in studio for CBC Cut and paste the following link for pictures, story, and audio: -


EP - forthcoming (2005)
Signs of Life (LP, 2004)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Fresh from being crowned the first hip-hop band ever to win CiTR radio's SHINDIG battle of the bands, The Front independently released their debut album 'Signs of Life' in 2004 - on their own Sound in Front imprint.

The album features 10 slamming tracks of hip-hop, soul, funk, & gospel music, influenced by everything from Hieroglyphics and Herbie Hancock, to Blackalicious and Stevie Wonder. Currently charting on college radio, the album is receiving great reviews everywhere it's being played.

In two short years, the band has become known for their incendiary live shows, earning them recent high profile gigs at NXNE (Toronto) and Canadian Music Week (Toronto), the World Ski & Snowboard Festival (Whistler), and Slam City Jam (Vancouver).

With tons of local club shows in Vancouver and Victoria and a brand new EP scheduled for release in April, The Front is fast becoming the hip-hop band to watch in 2005...