Saddle Creek | The Faint | Reviews


Blank-wave Arcade

11/01/1999 | | | Album Review
After years and years of embarrassment, the United States finally has an answer to Depeche Mode-and this band doesn't have to draw on obscure French fashion magazines for its name.

Well rounded electronic music has never really been a forte of the United States. Sure, it's laid down its share of techno, industrial and experimental trance bits, but nothing born of North American soil has really been able to pull things together and make a balanced electronic album a la Yaz, Eurasure or Depeche Mode, making pop-oriented music as suited for everyday listening as well as for the dance floor. The Faint finally break the American electronic music stalemate, dropping an album as fun to listen to as it is to boogie to.

Though Blank Wave Arcade is overwhelmingly synthetic, the Faint manage the toughest trick in electronic music, giving its compositions a decidedly human touch. With warm and embracing arrangements, the band pulls listeners in. The usual standoffish and cold aura of electronic music is alluded to throughout the album, though it's held firmly in check by the band's humanistic side. Mixing in touches of organic music, with guitars and bass minimally thrown in, the band comes off with a well balanced sound.

Songs like "Call Call," with a punching electronic chorus as user-friendly as any guitar riff ever played, and "In Concert," mixing warm synthesizers and catchy guitar hooks, prove as fun to passively listen to as much as they offer serious club potential. Pop may be a big no-no in more hardcore electronic circles, but it's one faux pas paying serious dividends for the Faint.

With vocal tracks delivered with flair to match its musical tracks, Blank Wave Arcade proves tough to resist. Gone are the dissociated, monotone voices flitting through a backbeat. Exiled are the redlined screams and screeches. The Faint follows through with actual singing, an increasingly rare twist in electronic music. From "The Passives" to "Sex is Personal" the band offers digitally based songs that are actually possible to sing along with without having to imitate odd effects or
sampled phrases.

The band's Kraftwerkian roots are visible at times, though. Active listeners will spot some overtly computerized tones wafting around on this album, sounding a trifle out of place with the rest of the pop stampede, while "Sealed Human," offers a droning and repetitious shot at the common, and flat, electronic sound.
Blank-wave Arcade

Blank-wave Arcade

LP / CD / MP3