The Faint couldn’t be more 2002 if they threatened to put their thing down, flip it, and reverse it. The Omaha quintet combined Saddle Creek earnestness and sardonic dance-punk on 2001’s Blank-Wave Arcade; by the following year’s breakthrough, Danse Macabre, there was a name for what they were doing. But on 2004’s Wet From Birth, they were desperately uncool and all-out repeating themselves; it was time for a change. And if you know how fast tides turn in the live-by-the-mp3-blog, die-by-the-mp3-blog age, you’d take four years off to make it, too. So here we are, with a new album made in a new studio for a new label, their own cheeky blank.wav imprint. But does anyone care? Authenticity’s back in style, with Cut Copy and Hercules & Love Affair burning up dorm-room dance floors, and the rise of the more richly histrionic LCD Soundsystem—not to mention the textured Burial or the grotesquely distorted Justice—makes the Faint’s simpler mind-meld of angst and beats seem more like the Quaint.
But they took notes. “Who put this hook inside my mouth?” asks frontman Todd Fink on Fasciinatiion‘s aptly titled leadoff track, “Get Seduced”; the answer, proudly, is himself. The band’s most alluring track in ages weds a hot-fudge bassline to clever sound effects, one after another, from malfunctioning acid synth to simulated zipper; the line where an “A-list starlet shaves her brains” betrays a sense of humor that will make fans of Danse Macabre relieved to learn that “Let the Poison Spill From Your Throat” might’ve been a stab at high-drama humor after all. The ebbing “I Treat You Wrong” wins innumerable points for cribbing from Archers of Loaf’s “White Trash Heroes,” without whom there’d be no Saddle Creek to begin with. But mostly the fascination here is with sounds-not-songs, which is fine for the year Portishead came back, as long as the Faint have enough dial tones and farts swiped from Thom Yorke’s basement tapes to deck out Fink’s traditionally one-note delivery when attention wanders. And give them some props: Could James Murphy have shaped a hook around the phrase “forever growing centipedes”?
The Faint play Terminal 5 August 18