Reviews

Wet From Birth

Author: Liza Hearon
09/15/2004 | Knight Ridder Newspapers
The lights come on and illuminate five slim, black-clad, fashionable young men and piles of electronic equipment. Video clips flash at a seizure-inducing pace and synthesizers churn out fast, anguished sounds. The young crowd is sharply dressed, sports elaborate haircuts and gyrates right along with the singer.
No, it's not New Order, and this show is not taking place in 1983.
The Faint have come a long way from playing shows for 10 friends in a coffeehouse in their hometown of Omaha, Neb. After an intense musical evolution, the electro-rock outfit has been aggressively courted by major labels, toured with No Doubt and Placebo and has finally settled somewhere just below the mainstream, MTV radar. That suits them just fine.
Brothers Todd and Clark Baechle, singer and drummer, bassist Joel Petersen, former death metal guitarist Dapose and keyboardist Jacob Thiele are touring in support of their fourth album, "Wet From Birth,'' a "varied'' album, according to Thiele, that has been seen as both "more of the same and a new direction.''
"Our goal is to create an intellectually and, most importantly, physically stimulating environment, conducive to dancing and loss of inhibitions,'' said Thiele.
They started off in 1994 as a typical indie rock band, along the lines of Pavement. But with the addition of synthesizers on 1999's "Blank Wave Arcade,'' The Faint left the world of plain, conventional, College Music Journal chart topping rock. 2001's "Danse Macabre'' is a sex-obsessed opus that befits a club sound system instead of a college radio station. Their new album is still a dance party, but incorporates power strings, reggae and dancehall beats and other eclectic influences.
Critics and fans have struggled to come up with ways to describe The Faint's sound, relying on elaborate cross comparisons to bands like Duran Duran, The Cure and Depeche Mode. While some of these are valid, the band is taking the new wave influence and making it modern, with a punk rock attitude, catchy hooks and other worldly gothic vocals.
Their live show is 100 percent rock 'n' roll, but uses samples and beats to recreate the sounds from the album, and also uses lighting effects and video projection screens, bought after the success of "Danse Macabre.'' Clips from biology instruction films, monster truck videos and animation bombard the senses.
"We appreciate artists who try to say something with their music, but we just want people to have fun, and we think that most people come to shows to see the band and to be seen, and don't set out to absorb the message. The visuals supplement our meaning for them,'' Thiele said.
Generally, The Faint's meanings are dark: sex and violence are popular topics. Not sex in the "I want to get with her'' kind of way, but commentaries and mockeries on sex in society. The "Blank Wave Arcade'' indie dance hit "Worked Up So Sexual'' tells the story of a stripper and her pathetic, ogling fans.
The band has been alternately accused of simply rehashing '80s music and praised for leading a new movement in indie music that can get a club bumping and shaking, along with groups such as !!! and The Rapture.
"It's easier for us to relate to music from the late '70s and early '80s because we grew up with it. There was a lot of forward thinking and style shifts. Today we're on the same page, with constant shifts in what's popular and a fascist president. The political climate creates a desire to change,'' Thiele said.
Change is quite possibly the only consistent driving force in the band. Critics sometimes say they try too many things, but it was their desire to experiment that inspired their transition from guitar driven rock to electronics driven. The resurgence in popularity of '80s music and fads was simply a coincidence, and the band felt "trapped in a bad fad,'' according to Todd Baechle, on the band's Web site.
Thiele says The Faint have no plans to tour with any major groups like No Doubt again. "We wanted to check it out, but touring with them was like shopping at Tower Records as opposed to a ma-and-pa store.'' They are also content with their label, Saddle Creek, the Omaha indie label that is also home friend and former band member Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.
Until they change their minds, The Faint will continue to tour voraciously, and probably long after the '80s fad they got sucked into is over.
Wet From Birth

Wet From Birth

LP / CD / MP3