Saddle Creek | The Faint | Reviews


Wet From Birth

Author: Greg Swan
09/22/2004 | | | Album Review
Since their inception in 1994, The Faint have grown some hair on their collective chests, peeked out from the underground and continued to explore 80s keyboards, dance beats and most recently a bit of metal guitar and indy rock glances.

Three years have passed since their last album, not to mention a grueling road schedule, long-overdue name recognition in pubs like the New York Times and Time Magazine, and a tour with No Doubt (I won't dock points for that). Eventually, they landed in a rented warehouse where band members met every weekday for a year (nicknamed "The Orifice") full of stacked up, broken-down washing machines.

First, you should know that I'm an Album Listener. I prefer to listen to an entire album and never buy one just to get a single song. (That's what iTunes is for.) Thus, track organization and song choice is key to me loving a record.

But The Faint doesn't care what I like.

They've got all types of songs on their latest album, "Wet From Birth": electronic, dance, punk, reggae, indy, etc. And I have to give them credit for that, because some bands (*cough* Nickelback!) write the same song over and over, to the point where you can lay the tracks on top of each other and they line up perfectly. Not something the world needs any more of.

As producer Mike Mogis and his wife birthed a child of their own, the Faint boys were ready for some experimentation, proven further by lead singer Todd Baechle's tease on the label's web site: "By the way, I was proud to have found a spot on the album for a raccoon penis bone-on-muffler solo. Can you find it?" Yeah, I have some idea where it can be found, but I don't dare let the coon penis out of the bag.

"Wet From Birth" starts like a happenin' 80s party, but then drops off at the end with a severely disappointing final song. The first track ("Desperate Guys") subtly reminds me of a hipper, happier retro-Cake song; subbing trumpet for violin, trucker hat for 80s Mohawk and songs about sheep and chicken nuggets for drum beats. All in all, a great opener.

The second song ("How Could I Forget") is my fave on this album. It's got the electronica rock foundation that makes the The Faint so much like themselves, and between the verses, they just plain rock out. Harmonic vocals and intricate electronic additives blended into the chaos make this track a delight in your headphones or any sound system with great bass and tweeters.

Track three ("I Disappear") is a dancy little song, starting out with a fun bass riff that gives way to perfectly-timed syncopation in the keyboards and even some cheesy double claps on the fourth measure of the phrasing. While annoying, the track just wouldn't be the same if the clap-claps were absent. The problem is that "I Disappear" repeats at the two-minute mark and completely loses the listener. It's a great song that eventually dies in repetitiveness a tremendous letdown for a four-minute track. (Hey, they're not Green Day; it's okay to mix up the tempo and guitar riffs, people.)

If track four, "Southern Belles in London Sing," has something to do with pirates, then I'd claim The Decemberists wrote it, regardless of what they say. It's a clean little song with a great string chart.

As for "Drop Kick the Punks," we get it, Baechle. You wrote a diverse album and you're exploring different veins (and eras) of music. This song isn't for me. I keep hearing Johnny Rotten's sneering vocals threatening, "I am an antichrist; I am an anarchist," over and over.

"Phone call." Yawn. Makes me wonder which band member loves Bob Marley. Oh, turns out it's Clark Baechle, and he wrote this song. Yay for Clark.

"Symptom Finger" is the showpiece of this album. Catchy hook, repetitive enough to catch the attention of the masses, and a great string accompaniment that develops, builds and comes together in standard pop fashion. It tries hard, but the album is in declining form by this point.

My problem with the album closer, "Birth," is that it makes The Faint's basic song structure too obvious, and in trying to be dramatic, fades out in strings. It's ironic, because Todd Baechle actually wrote this song before The Faint started recording. Perhaps that's why it doesn't fit in. It's billed as "the closing anthem" by the record label, but I'm more inclined to think this one couldn't find a home earlier in the track listing, so they stapled it to the end. And I haven't yet mentioned that all the tracks range from 2.5 to 4 minutes short!

Regardless of my criticism, "Wet From Birth" is a great effort from The Faint and Mike Mogis. I'm still not telling you where the raccoon penis bone-on-muffler solo can be found, but I will show you where you can buy one.

Wet From Birth

Wet From Birth

LP / CD / MP3