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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Faint

Rating: 6/10 ?

August 4, 2008
With four full-length albums under their collective belt, over the course of their decade-long tenure as a band the Faint have developed an almost predictable sound. Though each album in their catalog is distinct, the band's musical canon is cemented in a gothic-new-wave-dance-punk sound distilled somewhere in the middle of their second album, Blank Wave Arcade, and more or less tightly followed ever since. Other than the extra vowels, that stylistic rut is the main problem with Fasciinatiion; the territory is well worn and the band knows it. There are no new paths cut, which is unfortunate for a group of performers who have proven they can be truly creative.

Like many of the band's contemporary fans, I first came to know the Faint when their third record, Danse Macabre, was released to widespread acclaim in 2001. At the time the dance-punk genre was just getting up to steam and the Omaha collective put a darker, gothic/new wave spin on it, which turned a sound only recently established into something new all over again. That album was refreshing and certainly was not a cookie-cutter trend pitch, and in some small regard The Faint can be held accountable, along with the Internet, for pushing dance-punk into the realm of the overblown and overhyped. Back then they were that good, but since then they've gotten a little soft around their formerly hard edges.

The most fascinating thing about their fifth record is the fact that it took almost four years to create. One can't help but wonder why it took so long, considering that it sounds as if it could have been recorded a few days after the one before it. Granted, there are some new 'sounds of bubbles popping' studio effects on Fasciinatiion ("Get Seduced," "A Battle Hymn For Children") that weren't found on Wet From Birth, but by and large the new compositions not only sound unrushed, they sound rather lazy. Perhaps the band's logic was that the longer they could drag it out, the more distance they could get on similar sounds released in years prior, allowing the album to sound fresh no matter how much is rehashed.

That Fasciinatiion isn't a revelatory departure is not to say that it is completely without merit. It is, however, undeniably lacking an air of excitement. When compared to their earlier albums, there exists little sense of immediacy or even much enthusiasm. Where before we had "Worked Up So Sexual," "Your Retro Career Melted," and "I Disappear" as engaging standouts, Fasciinatiion really lacks hard punches. The album features the song "Psycho," documenting a fight between young lovers in a poppy, Klaxons sort of way, as well as "Mirror Error," which sounds like a much less intense version of "I Disappear," but nothing original and exciting. Kicking things off with a song that sounds like a generic 80s cop show theme song ("Get Seduced"), Fasciinatiion's stage is set for disappointment from the get-go.

I'm not a nostalgic old fuddy duddy, and there are some good songs to be found in this collection. Not great, but good. The album's first single, "The Geeks Were Right," is a computer-generated stomper ruminating on visions of the future and technology; infused with a great beat and interesting effects, it moves, it shakes andů well, it sounds like the Faint. The very same Faint as the last time out. Maybe I am just an old fuddy duddy complaining and reminiscing about the good ol' days. Hello Happy Valley Retirement Center, here I come.

Elsewhere on the album, "I Treat You Wrong" is a dark song about relationships, one that could inhabit the world the Wachowski Brothers created in The Matrix. It's a creepy, slower tune, similar to Danse Macabre's "Violence," but without the strings. Followed by "Forever Growing Centipedes," the one-two punch of Fasciinatiion's strongest songs lands in the second half of the album. There are hints of experimentation in the song structures and effects, but both songs are thematically linked to the future and technology. I guess that's always been the Faint's strongpoint - their vision of the future. But whereas they were once ahead of the pack, the band have now found a comfortable place in the middle and seem content to lyricize about new inspirations rather than create them. In art it is difficult to stay on the cutting edge forever, but sitting back at their comfy computer desks, re-writing past ideas, the Faint sound as if they're resigned to daydreaming about that Happy Valley Retirement Center they'll soon be checking into.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig



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