It’s been heading that way for a few months now granted. With terrific issues of late, the guys over at FRONT towers seem to have gotten over the departure of former editor Joe Barnes to FHM, and are now getting back to what made the magazine so great in the first place. What is the reason behind this resurgence? I think it has a lot to do with FRONT giving more and more page time to models like Alysha Nett and Kitty Lea, as well as finding fantastic “alt girls” and smattering in FRONT regulars. They’ve also returned to what I call “trainers and toons”, which was the backbone of quality FRONT issues of the past. Girls in kick-ass trainers and brilliant illustrations from up coming and established artists have made a welcome return. All in all, it’s been a steady journey back to form for FRONT. From the backlash of a few months ago, that lead to many people (misguidedly and prematurely) jumping ship, to this current and quite magnificent issue. It’s been one hell of a ride with FRONT of late, but issue 164 is an imperious way to begin 2012. You’ve done it again this month FRONT, and got me very excited for another tantalizing twelve. This is what I thought of the issue anyway…
The cover. I heard through the grapevine of tumblr that Alysha Nett would be on the cover this month, something that surprised me seeing as she was featured in last months “full frontal”. Surprised but delighted I have to say, as I’ve been screaming at FRONT to include this lady more for ages. In fact, Alysha has had a bit of a monopoly of the magazine recently. Appearing in multiple issues and on the website in various ways. Just when I was jumping for joy at that piece of news, I got a sneaky peak at the cover, and to my amazement saw that Arabella was co-covering this months offering as well! A dynamic modelling duo for sure, and the cover composition is really impressive. With their feature centring around tattoos; banners with text, and roses dotted around, is an excellent precursor. There’s a bit of “angel and devil” to Alysha and Arabella’s poses on the cover. Alysha, the paler of the two, has hands aloft, daintily assuming a statuesque elegance. Juxtapose this with Arabella’s mischievous expression and cheeky (pardon the pun) hand position, and it creates a lovely balance visually. A wry smile crept across my face when I saw Cala looking out from the top right corner of the cover. I thought to myself (rather smugly I admit) “beat you to it FRONT” referring to my interview with Cala released last month. However, in all seriousness, Cala’s involvement was yet another reason be to excited about this issue. This cover does what covers are supposed to do. Excites the reader to first buy, and then read on. What a terrific start to a wonderful issue, and once again, what an awesome start to another year of FRONT!
The welcome page to any FRONT issue is always a nice inside look at what it’s like to work with FRONT. I’m glad they implemented it, and god it makes me want a job there! Highlights on these pages are a shot of Mel Clarke signing something (she looks wonderful), the crazy Nurf gun weapon the guys constructed, and fantastic behind the scenes shots of Alysha and Arabella in nothing but aprons and socks!
A little mention for the amazing Yaz next. She popped up on the letters page with funny results. Always nice to see Yaz in the mag in any capacity, and any excuse to revisit her awesome work in previous issues. My thinking is the closer she stays to the team, the more chance there is of getting her in FRONT again! Moving on to page ten and one of the best “reader’s shit” sections in ages. Kudos indeed to Rich Hewitt for his “arch of perfection” submission. Also, I was wowed by James Church’s drawing of Mellisa, good enough to deserve a break for spelling her name wrong I felt (but that’s FRONT for ya).
“Full frontal” this month was a pleasure and a treat. Not that is isn’t usually. But for me, this appearance by Sabine is far more in-keeping with the FRONT ethos, than her feature was in issue 161. Back then she seemed a little too tan-tastic, and didn’t seem like a FRONT-style model at all. Lots of people agreed, and went off the deep end about her inclusion. Here though, on pages 14 to 19, is the reason she was used by FRONT in the first place. The whole shoot has a much more FRONT-ish feel, and Sabine’s work, styling, and use of her surroundings just screams FRONT model! “Back by popular demand” may be a bit of a stretch following Sabine’s last appearance, but in this month’s “full frontal” she really excels, and proved me totally wrong for questioning FRONT’s decision to feature this lady. I‘m sure she doesn’t give two hoots what I think, but there was a lot of unease after issue 161’s cover shoot. I hope people now understand, and can appreciate Sabine’s talents and appeal. Page 15 is my favourite image from the set. Sabine’s expression, pose, hair, everything… Just says “what the fuck do you want? I’m busy being awesome!” Turn the page though and WOW, the flexibility! On what looks like a bad 80’s sofa no less. Getting into that position (seen in a double page spread) and still looking fabulous, has to be applauded. There’s a serenity in her eyes, and an allure in the purse of her lips that betrays the strain and effort she must surly be putting in. We close with a few pictures that hint at a retro vibe to me. The dated looking set, and old school-ish skirt and suspenders don’t seem to fit with the previous images. However, Sabine does look stunning, and her make-up against the blue wall on page 18 is dazzling. In every image her eyes really work for the shot, and there’s no expression gone to waste. In my humble opinion that is.
This month’s illustrator profile is Jack Teagle. I’m not a massive fan of the style if I’m honest, but am very conscious that it’s a brand of illustration that’s sweeping the country right now. I’ve seen something similar appear in a car ad on the TV of late, can’t think of the make of automobile, but it immediately made me think of FRONT, so I guess Jack is in the right place. He’s responsible for the images that go with the “good shit/bad shit” regular feature, and has been utilised by FRONT a lot in the past. I can see the relationship continuing, and I hope the style grows on me if it’s to be used more expansively. No negativity towards Jack here what so ever, I wish him all the best. Who am I to talk anyway, loads of folks are loving what he’s doing. Good luck to him.
Page 30 and 31 is a trainer fest, and an interesting look at a “trainer con”, which I had no idea even existed. Something about the whole piece seemed to scream New York for some reason. Before you say it, I know it was held in New York. But the characters seen, the shoes, the hats… It all summed up New York style at present for me. In a very good way.
“There she is” I said to myself when I turned to page 54. In a (not meaning to be) very creepy way. I smiled all the way through this piece. I was so chuffed that Cala was featuring, and very proud that I managed to interview her for this blog last month. Another truly impressive thing about Cala’s shoot, is that it was all her own work. It doesn’t happen that often that a featuring alt girl shoots her own set, but this is all Cala’s photography, and it’s tremendous! I’m not surprised at all at the quality of both the photographs and the modelling in these pictures. I’ve been a massive fan of Cala’s blog ever since I was first introduced to it. I practically lived on there while constructing our interview (for research purposes only I promise). She’s a very talented photog on top of everything else, and the quality she produces is the same if it’s for her own blog, or here in FRONT. That’s why she has such a fan base. Her FRONT showing is a little different from the norm granted, that’s to be expected seeing as Cala shot it herself. But the “alt girl” quality is totally there, and she’s made some really wonderful choices in the shots. My favourite picture, and a definite front runner for the next alt girl calendar, is on page 57. It’s all in this picture. Cala’s terrific figure, a pout to make anyone weak at the knees, and her fiery hair echoing and enhancing her phoenix tattoo. A wonderful performance from a special lady.
The D.I.Y section is a very diverse and busy collection of beauty this month. Highlights for me were the inclusion of Miss AnnaCat on the right margin, Weez’s great set, Hannah’s unfathomably large bosoms, and Francesca’s versatile trio of photos. It was a terrific section for sure, really enjoyable.
This brings us gleefully on to the main event of the month. Alysha and Arabella’s feature shoot. The idea of dedicating the whole feature to explaining both girls’ tattoos was a bit of a brave one maybe. It was a terrific idea don’t get me wrong, and I loved learning about them. But I think there was a danger of perhaps defining these two very creative and intriguing individuals purely by their ink. There is a lot more to them of course, and I hope people didn’t forget that while enjoying the words and pictures.
The first shot of the set on page 83 is a great way to kick things off. There’s a sense of collaboration with the two girls together, mirroring nipple piercings and hands on one another’s bottoms. The look over the shoulder to camera is wonderful, and there’s a dimension or angle to Alysha’s face in particular that I haven’t regularly seen. It’s a really excellent picture, and in a feature about tattoos, it highlights each lady’s most talk about piece, Alysha’s frame, and Arabella’s pirate. Page 84 gives us an image that FRONT has already turned into a poster I believe, or a special Arabella only one off cover or something. It cries out attitude, not only by the massive “fuck you” on the balloon, but Arabella’s open chested stance and expression. A very beautiful but powerful shot. Page 85 is all about Alysha for me. Her marvellous stomach tattoo is a feature at the top of the page, and her snarling yet gorgeous visage at the bottom of the page just jumps out at me. She also always looks good in a cap and shirt buttoned at the neck.
The double spread on pages 86 and 87 works very well in the context of the set. There’s a unity and a separation that is beautiful. Joined hand in hand, above and below their faces, there’s a heart like symmetry to the set up of the picture. There’s something of the siren about both women in this shot. Alysha looks out at camera with such persuasion, while Arabella touches Alysha’s lipstick to her mouth. Tell me you wouldn’t do whatever these ladies asked of you after seeing this.
Fun and perfect posteriors are the themes for the remaining pages. On 88 and 89 we see winter socks introduced, and a collection of Polaroid-esque pictures telling the story of the shoot. Both models look like they really enjoyed the work, and there was a comfortability with each other that shone through. An image in the centre towards the top of page 89 really speaks to me. It’s just Alysha’a naked feet next to Arabella’s socked feet. But there’s a cuteness about it, and the Marilyn Tattoo really pops. At the bottom of page 89 Arabella again grabs Alysha’s butt, which leads us nicely on to the perfect posterior portion of the shoot. Page 90 displays Arabella’s delightful derrière in all it’s glory. With a massive wedgie it has to be said. Opposite on page 91 is my favourite image from the feature by far. There’s something about this picture of Alysha that is just masterful. The posture, the arch of her back (which Alysha is an expert at), the look down and the hair. They all work together to make a really amazing photograph. One I’d LOVE blown up, framed and hung on my wall.
The final image I had to mention, and is yet another exponent of the perfect posterior on pages 94 and 95. Both girls back to camera, sitting on the floor. Again, there is an angel and devil thing going on here, echoing the front cover. The page divide only goes to enhance this, with Arabella’s golden skin and duelling pistols, playing exquisitely against Alysha’s pale elegance and ornate frame tattoo. I’m exhausted with all my pronouncements of wonderfulness within this review, but I could never put into words how impressive this feature is. Arabella and Alysha are two very interesting models to look at and learn from. They are highly skilled at what they do, and every image in the set goes to prove this. A masterstroke in uniting these two models by FRONT, and it’s why I proclaim FRONT is back to its best. But as I always say, who am I to be making such proclamations? Go check out the issue for yourself, it’s in the shops now.