by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
From the Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 15, 2001:
There is nothing in Omaha or elsewhere quite like The Faint, and they know it.
Their ultra-stylized live shows have enough panache to transform even the bleak, wood-paneled, linoleum-floored confines of Sokol Underground into a be-seen-style glossy, New York City dance club. It’s not done with smoke and mirrors. More like smoke and light and heat, and a digital-pulsed rhythm that throbs in syncopation with the black-clad lads’ every twitch, their bodies bent in strobe-lit silhouette behind racks of keyboards, wires and gear.
Their stage show is a flawless marriage of tune and technology, driven by a style of music that is at once familiar to anyone who listened during the bad-hair days of New Wave electronic pop to bands like Human League, Berlin, Thomas Dolby, Front 242; a style that carried on into the ’90s with dance-house acts like Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cure. But though comparisons can be made — and always are — nothing from the Reagan-era on or since has really sounded like The Faint’s brand of dark, sleek, digitally driven rock.
It is high-style anywhere, but especially in a state that takes pride in comparing itself to choice cuts of meat cooked “rare, well done.” The Faint is an oddball outfit, too sleek to recognize how sleek it is, denying fashion while at the same time setting it.
So began a story that tried to describe what would become one of the hottest bands to emerge from the Omaha music scene. It was written to support the release of Danse Macabre, the follow-up to The Faint’s break-out 1999 album, Blank-Wave Arcade. Released by Saddle Creek Records Aug. 21, 2001, Danse Macabre is my favorite Faint album, and judging by the reaction that almost every one of its songs received during live shows, it was their fans’ favorite, too. More from the vault:
The difference (from Blank-Wave Arcade) both in sound and musical style is a slap in the face right from the opening track, “Agenda Suicide,” which sports the darkest, bleakest sing-along chorus laid over the band’s patented minor-key voice-of-doom-in-a-jumpsuit synth counter-melodies. And, of course, an irresistible house-dance rhythm track. The hyper-kinetic whirl of “Glass Dance” comes on like a video-game-colored rave soundtrack, but with irresistible, undeniable hooks. “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat” and “Your Retro Career Melted” carry a distinct Some Great Reward-era Depeche Mode punch.
The fireworks, however, don’t reach maximum height until midway through the CD. The streamlined “Poised to Death,” is a sassy head-shaker, while “The Conductor,” a song the band has opened its set with since they began touring this summer, is a regal, minor-key dance anthem, complete with vocoder-distorted vocals (just like Neil Young’s Trans, for you old-timers) and orchestral-quality piano tones. Next, Todd’s portrait of life on the edge, “Violent,” marries stark, grim images of violence and murder with Sputnik-tinged synth pings and an ever-throbbing thump-thump-thump house beat that’ll keep anyone shaking it. CD closer “Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen” takes advantage of a gorgeous cello line played by Cursive’s Gretta Cohn to set the stage for one last dark fable, with the opening lines: “I’m paralyzed and things could change for you as well / You’re not so bad off now, you can move anything you need.”
Said Todd during the interview: ”Rather than analyzing different things about sex, this one sort of does that with death. Neither album is all about sex or death, but there is sort of a death theme this time.”
The record would go on to sell 147,000 copies, making it the band’s all-time best seller and among the best selling Saddle Creek releases. It came at the dawn of Saddle Creek’s (and some would say, Omaha music’s) Golden Age, with The Faint, Bright Eyes and Cursive jockeying back and forth as the most popular bands on the roster (a battle that Bright Eyes would eventually win).
“We’re not trying to get popular,” Todd said. “I think radio sucks and I’m not going to jump through hoops to get on it.” He yawned and put a CD in the stereo. “We don’t want to be millionaires. I don’t know what we’d do with the money.”
Back to the Present: Today, as far as anyone knows, The Faint are no more, though there hasn’t been an “official announcement” saying the band has permanently split. Last I heard, Joel Petersen was living somewhere in Los Angeles and was releasing music as Broken Spindles. Mike Dapose, whereabouts unknown to me, created death metal/electronic/experimental project Vvwerevvolf Grehv. Todd, Clark and Jacob — all now living in Omaha — started a new electronic dance project called Depressed Buttons, which will begin a monthly residency at the all-new House of Loom, 1012 South 10 Street, on Sept. 9. DP already has released music on Mad Decent, an LA-based label owned by Thomas Wesley Pentz, a.k.a. Diplo, the Grammy-nominated producer of M.I.A’s “Paper Planes.” You can check out some Depressed Buttons music at their Sound Cloud page: http://soundcloud.com/depressedbuttons.
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Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s the illustrious return of punk-metal madmen Bloodcow with Lo-Pan and Anestatic. Bloodcow never fails to put on a fantastic show. Do not miss. $5, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.