Saddle Creek | The Faint | Reviews


Danse Macabre

Author: A.K. Gold
8/21/2001 | Nude as the News | | Album Review
Rating: 8.0

Saddle Creek, 2001
RiYL: Depeche Mode, New Order

When I was a sophomore in high school, I took an art history class taught by a teacher who was rather fond of showing films. Though I remember little of what I learned or saw in the class, I distinctly recall watching "In Search of Rothko," a short film about a college student's diligent attempts to understand the work of the Russian born, American painter Mark Rothko. The standout scene in the 22-minute film was the student's frazzled late-night visit to New York's Guggenheim Museum (where a Rothko exhibit was being shown) where he convinces the security guard to let him in so he can have his revelation and finally understand Rothko.
I bring up this high school memory, not to entertain you with a pretentious anecdote, but because it speaks to something I run across as a music listener, an art observer, and a movie watcher. Like the college student struggling to "get" Rothko, I find that I sometimes just don't understand the music of certain bands. Not "getting" a band isn't the same as not liking them, it's more like the uneasy feeling you get when you know you aren't understanding a math problem, that something is just missing in your comprehension. The list of bands I don't get includes the likes of The Doors, The Cure, the last two Radiohead records, and until recently, the Faint.
On Danse Macabre, keyboards, bass, and programmed drum beats remain the prominent sonic tools behind lead singer Todd Baechle's eerie - and sometimes robotic - vocals. "Glass Danse" is an engaging hybridization of new-wave pop heaviness and Norman Cook's infectious big beat style while "Posed to Death" sounds like a lost Soft Cell track reinvigorated by a drum and bass break from Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People."
The first two-thirds of Danse Macabre is a stark and heavily electronic and electric affair. But after seven tracks of the Faint's stark synth, bass, and programming arrangements, Gretta Cohn's broad cello work adds a more human (but no less vexing) element to the mix. Cohn's sawing cello line provides the perfect contrast to the staccato programmed beats on "Violent" while her melancholy, soundtrack-for-the-English-moors cello solo on "Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen," sets the perfect tone for the cinematically down-tempo, piano and bells-inflected track.
Until I listened to their latest release, the dark, engaging and dance-worthy Danse Macabre, the Faint was on my ever growing and reducing list of bands that I don't quite understand like I wish to. However, this latest effort, which is the band's strongest to date, has been a revelation for me. Not so extreme that I am harassing late-night security guards at the Guggenheim, but enough so that I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the band's creative output.
Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre

LP / CD / MP3