Reviews

Blank-wave Arcade

11/01/1999 | Cadenza - Wash U. school newspaper | Album Review
Every rock permutation on the musical radar swings back and forth between the extremes of genuine, stripped-down feeling and synthetic, mechanically enhanced popcraft (not in a bad way) on a regular basis. With the Get Up Kids openly pledging their allegiance to Duran Duran (just because they have a keyboard okayer, mind you) and forming an even new-wavier side project called Reggie and the Full Effect, it might seem that the tide has begun to turn even in the world of emo punk, where the burbling of synthesizers and British view of sex seems anathema to their dour "pop."
But even Reggie pales beneath the Casio-enhanced sheen of the Faint and their new album Blank Wave Arcade, a tightly compact half-hour of cold-wave synth pop driven into hysterics by an injection of pounding punk rhythms. This is the album that could beat the shit out of Gary Numan's paranoid ass or talk Berlin into a three-way with the Stranglers. It's because the Faint have a secret ingredient: they know that nothing succeeds like sex.
A third of the tracks here have it in their title and its specter haunts
most of the rest.. On "Worked Up So Sexual," lead singer Todd Baechle
looks behind the titillation of a strip club to the Showgirls-like sexual
hierarchy ("smaller tits and younger legs can cause a rivalrym," the leer
in his nasal drone implying that he can't wait for the catfight) and the
tiger these girls release every time they turn a customer on. The real
highlight, though, is when the minimal synth pulse gives way to BAechle's yelp and explodes into one of those baroque synth melodies that Dead or Alive did so well. "Cars Pass in Cold Blood" is Gary Numan's vision of the road plus Duran Duran's vision of the groove, and so what if the combination proves unstable? It blows up real good -- into "Casual Sex," a Lynchian portrait of a "new wave soldier" and "gothic nun" who quench their thirst in a most sacreligous way. The second half of the album is less gooey and interesting than the first. It's a nice touch, though, to hear the Faint pose as rock n roll saviors on "In Concert" and maybe someday the avant-garde textures of "Sealed Human" will gel into the next Kraftwerk.
Until then, though, the point's moot: there's enough flash in this Blank
Wave Arcade to keep you plunking down quarters.
Blank-wave Arcade

Blank-wave Arcade

LP / CD / MP3