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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Techno-apocalypse

The Faint has been reinventing its sound. Sample experiments are being conducted.

August 08, 2008|August Brown | Times Staff Writer

What's a band to do when the new wave gets old? The rakish, decade-old Omaha disco-punk quintet the Faint was among the first indie acts to rediscover the heady pleasures of the four-on-the-floor house beat and distortion-besotted synthesizers.

Lately, though, you can't shake a Moog without hitting some emo band's programming guru in the glasses. For a future-conscious band like the Faint, which played Wednesday at Pomona's Glass House, the fact that rock culture has caught up means it has to keep moving -- either onto a new sound or back into the guts of its machines to rewire them.

On the band's new album, "Fasciinatiion," it has done the latter -- literally, by leaving longtime label Saddle Creek Records to start its own and self-producing its new record, and, figuratively, by abandoning the Depeche Mode-ish rave-ups of its early years for a meticulous approach to sound that prizes idiosyncratic timbres and techno-apocalypse lyricism over the devilish, sex-crazed romps of old.

To the degree this revisionism works, it's because the quintet consists of such monster instrumentalists, particularly keyboardist Jacob Thiele and one-name guitarist Dapose. After 10 years together, the Faint could probably play rotary telephones and sound more interesting than anything on rock radio.

Whereas the band's breakthrough 2001 album, "Danse Macabre," relied on set-to-obliterate synth riffs good enough to be a song's entire chorus, the odd creaks, pings and open spaces of "Fasciinatiion" make it both more arresting and flintier. It works best on more moody, involved tunes, such as "Psycho" and "Get Seduced," in which the band gets to show off what it's doing best today -- honing spastic energy into expert bullets of noise and sass.

The band members have kept their demoniacal sense of humor. Singer Todd Fink (formerly Todd Baechle, he took the last name of his wife and fellow Saddle Creek vet Orenda Fink) played in what looked like a dentist's smock and dark goggles that evoked John Malkovich playing F.W. Murnau in "Shadow of the Vampire." But Fink is also the band's one weak spot on "Fasciinatiion." He's always been a touch flat vocally, which has been forgivable when he was singing about stripper rivalries, Haitian voodoo and, less deliciously, his own gestation (the band's last album was called "Wet From Birth").

This round, though, his lyrics tend toward composition-book fare decrying tired straw men, including tabloid culture, religious fervor and how God is, like, totally stoked when America bombs other countries, right? It's less of a problem live when the other band members can compensate by murdering any instrument they pick up, but Fink is far better at dissecting life's small humiliations.

Even a merely competent Faint album is still an occasion for this group to get on the road and remind the latest crop of mascara-painted boys how good a band can sound as a many-armed beast of evilly virtuosic party music.

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august.brown@latimes.com

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The Faint

Where: The Music Box @ Fonda, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8 tonight

Price: Sold out

Contact: (323) 464-0808

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