Faint : Danse Macabre

... Where electroclash meets the new rock revolution...

When the bubonic plague swept through Europe in the 17th century, artists of the time frequently depicted the “danse macabre”, a group of skeletons either playing instruments or dancing in a ring. Fast forward four centuries, and The Faint (recently called, hilariously, “Nebraska’s answer to [’80s synth duo] Heaven 17”), disinter the image for their album title. Not only that, said album (their third) contains songs called ‘Agenda Suicide’, ‘Let The Poison Spill From Your Throat’, ‘Ballad Of A Paralysed Citizen’ and, fantastically, ‘Posed To Death’. Having covered sex fairly exhaustively on their previous album ‘Blank Wave Arcade’ (sample titles: ‘Worked Up So Sexual’, ‘Sex Is Personal’, ‘Casual Sex’), The Faint are now doing death. Imagine a terminally depressed Fischerspooner and you’re in the changing room of the right ballpark.

Except that The Faint are a proper band. With guitars and that. As NME’s Faint feature said last week, they sit precisely midway between electroclash and the new rock revolution. Their tunes, adorned with blurting synth riffs and Duran Duran-sized choruses, are as gripping and remorseless as a mechanised car-crusher.

The Faint‘s overt Eightiesness might put off the timid – they dress entirely in black and use weird I-Am-A-Dalek microphones when the moment demands. However with ultra-hooky songs like ‘Your Retro Melted Career’ The Faint are – a la Gary Numan – just a Sugababes rejig away from “proper” chart success.

Despite being recorded on the usual indie shoestring, the whole thing is sonically enormous. No one for many a long year has made synthesizers rock harder than The Faint, and the blasting riff on ‘Glass Danse World’ could flatten a small city. Although they’re part of the indie mutual support group of their hometown Omaha, led by Bright Eyes‘ Conor Oberst, The Faint‘s music has more in common with the rampaging keyboards of No Doubt‘s ‘Hella Good’ – the band they supported on a nationwide tour this summer. As both electroclash and the new rock revolution mutate to survive the new rigors of 2003, it’s North America that’s reshuffling the clues of the past in order to point to the future. Sign up for the resurrection shuffle.

Alex Needham