Saddle Creek | The Faint | Reviews


Blank-wave Arcade

Author: -kazoo
11/01/1999 | Mystery Kitchen | | Album Review
The first thing I've learned as mountains of press kits started building up on my desk...never believe a press kit. The writers of these things seem to not listen to the artist or the album, and pull cliche comparisons out from nowhere (not unlike myself). I got the faint CD (Blank-Wave Arcade). I heard them a few years ago on a mix tape...

They were good, indie pop stuff, kind of mopey, etc. I put the CD in and opened up the press flyer. "Devo meets Pulp." Ha! Well, the album started and I was immediately taken aback. Cheesy drum machine-type beats, a circa '83 synth. This is good. I'm stillnot sure if this is the same band that was on my mix tape back in the day, but at thispoint it doesn't matter.

I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am about the album. It's the kick in the proverbial ass that pop has needed for quite some time. So they're going back to the 80s... Who's complaining? Every other band is digging back to the 60s and 70s, and they don't get any flack.

"Sex is Personal" opens the album with a Thomas Dolby synth whimper to wail transition, and breathy vocals a la Corey Hart. "Call Call," has Berlin written all over it - distorted vocals that could be singing ballads to Belinda Carlisle, and a throbbing breakdown that could have been taken straight out of Duran Duran's heyday.

"Worked up so Sexual" begins with a 909-sounding drum loop, and the queen bee buzzing ensues to take no prisoners. The bleeping solo/chorus puts me into 2nd grade (watching V66 mind you). The song is catchier than an STD at a 80's arena backstage party. "Cars Pass in Coldblood" might fit into the proto-industrial workings of the early 90s, but the warbling melody and the sing-along chorus pull it back into retro heaven, at least until the super-scary outtro that eventually makes a transition into "Casual Sex."

"Casual Sex - is it irrational? Yes." What a great opening line. The story of a nun and a soldier getting their groove on will make any song a quality venture. "Victim Convenience" takes its turn at criticizing the TV generation (is that what they're calling us now?). "We're all on cable I.V. drips." (What a frightening image - Jennifer Anniston and Drew Carey directly into the blood stream.")

"Sealed Human" sounds almost like a Blur song. The quick tumbling drum could fit into "Oily Water," but the rest of the uncharacteristically morbid song is completely Casio influenced (note the lyrics - it's a subway massacre). "In Concert" could be a jingle for Snapple or something, and I swear I've heard that guitar line before, but I cannot recall. An allegorical tale of going to a gig indeed - "If you've got things on your mind/shake them off."

Every good thing must come to an end. "The Passives" has a late 80s drumbeat (I'm thinking Neneh Cherry - the "Buffalo Stance" era in rock and roll). It employs the same up and down/in and out synth patterns as a lot of America's most loved "electronic" artists, but doing a far better job. The whistling bell-keyboard Dr. Who rip-off for the last few seconds make for a perfect closing impression.

There are times on the album where the vocals are nearly as sexy as Jarvis Cocker's (pulp), and sometimes they even sound British, though they're not (proving my point that "British" does not necessarily equal "good"). These boys are from Anytown, USA. I don't mean to sound like a retro dork. The 80s produced some of the silliest music of all time, but how can a child of the 80s such as myself deny the influence and secret love for those one-hit wonders? There are 3 songs with some form of "sex" in the title. It seems to me that this isn't a 1999 rip off of that which once was. They know what they're doing; they know how to do it. The music is highly derivative, but it's catchy and silly and fun and giddy. Dammit, it makes me feel like a kid again.

Blank-wave Arcade

Blank-wave Arcade

LP / CD / MP3