Just when did The Faint become a musical force to be reckoned with, anyway? 2008 saw the release of the indie dance-punk band's 5th studio album, 10 years after the release of their debut album Media. Their style has changed over the 10 years, each album bringing a new perspective on their sound. Whether it be pop-influenced punk tunes or monotone indie goth tracks, The Faint have managed to practically reinvent themselves with each release, while simultaneously maintaining a part of themselves that is immediately identifiable and welcome. Fasciinatiion, released on their own blank.wav records, is no exception.
Fasciinatiion (notice the ASCII?) builds on both Wet From Birth, their 2004 Saddle Creek release, and Blank Wave Arcade, their electronic sensation album which featured the raucous tune "Worked Up So Sexual," to form an indie-pop/dance-goth hybrid that amazingly is both somber and uplifiting. The most adequate description I can conceive is The Faint produced by The Knife. Todd Fink's vocals will never be as raw and unchained as they were before 2001's Danse Macabre, and I don't think their music will ever bring up visions of the club again. While Wet From Birth may have caused me to mourn the loss of those two important aspects of what made me love The Faint to begin with, Fasciinatiion sends them off in style, reminding everyone that you can't go through life only focusing on what made you like something.
The lead single, "The Geeks Were Right", (purchase/download) sounds vaguely familiar each time I listen to it. A few listens later and it hit me, the verse structure combined with the rhythm guitar reminded me of The Killers' "Somebody Told Me." In "Geeks," Fink sings about machines ruining the world and girls liking the guys who make computers and run online corporations, confirming that all those years ago, the geeks actually were right, they would take over the world. "Get Seduced," the track that actually opens the album, describes through pop melodies and a fun beat the addiction America (and really everyone) has with watching the lives of celebrities through gossip magazines and pop media. Unconventional lyrics, melodies, beats, and themes abound on Fasciinatiion. "Machine in the Ghost" being a good example, Fink rattling off many belief systems and divination methods towards the end of the song. "Fulcrum and the Lever" sports a slow and seductive beat that draws you eagerly into the eerily spoken-word story of a group of kids building a flying machine in their backyard. The plank of wood they set atop a tree stump was used as a projection method, launching the protagonist high above the houses and plummeting back down to earth, resulting in a broken bone. In the hospital, he begins to notice "strange phenomenon" – "even Moses on the cross seemed a bit off."
"Psycho" and "Mirror Error" are both great confessional pop tunes, the former an apology to a girl he never thought was psycho but called her that out of anger and frustration; the latter about a guy who believes what he sees in the mirror when the mirror very rarely is right. Both are upbeat, but I find myself really digging "Mirror Error" more, not sure why. It definitely has the creepy factor to it when he talks about switching faces at the end of the track. "I Treat You Wrong," "Forever Growing Centipedes," and "Fish in a Womb" are all good songs but not the best on the album. Finally we come to "A Battle Hymn for Children," (purchase/download) surely the shining pinnacle of Fasciinatiion, with its very different beat structure and memorable chorus-that-isn't-a-chorus you have to hear to understand.
Summary – While 10 tracks may be a little short, this album feels like it lasts forever. Trust me, you won't mind. This is my favorite album from The Faint, so definitely give it a try.
Released August 2008 on Saddle Creek.