Surely one of the biggest bands to revivify dance punk in the early 2000s, the Faint have decided to go it alone for their fifth album, Fasciinatiion. And by alone, we mean alone. They created their own label, blank.wav, to release the album. They wrote, recorded, produced, and art-directed it. But even with an entirely non-Saddle Creek infrastructure, the members of the Faint do not abandon their twitchy synthetic roots.
When the pioneers of electronic music slaved away in their underground and windowless labs to create sine waves, vocoded voices, envelope filters and other weird (and wired) manipulations of sound, they could not have predicted the devilish garishness of the Faint’s sound. This album takes the band’s machine-friendly roots even further toward manic death dance mode. Never exactly art-pop-noodlers, the Faint on Fasciinatiion don’t create strange stretched-out synthesized noisescapes so much as guerrilla-attack-quick propulsions of beat, saw-wave synth, twitter guitar and electri-“fried” voice.
First single “The Geeks Were Right” sums it up perfectly. The dry spikes of guitar give way to a cutting synth bass line and rocking drums. It’s a classic Faint sound structure, and it perfectly embodies the geek apocalypse of “modified features and software brains.” But, of course, “that’s what the girls like.”
The hint of sex is not only a hint, which is made clear by opener “Get Seduced.” Blops and bloops seem to go all over the place as a metallic voice sings about how we “get seduced.” Our primordial desires are the most easily manipulated by advertisers, plastic surgeons, and capitalist-utopian visionaries of all stripes: The promise of seduction seduces us. The band plays its own game of seduction throughout the album, giving us danceable, practically glandular beats while singing lyrics of fear and loathing. We are fucked, but we’ll dance to it (and we hope those girls or boys will notice).
Sex, death and apocalypse have always been the Faint’s preoccupations, but the band has made an even greater effort on this album to prophecy the android dance party of 2080. As such, it’s more of the same, but pitched to an even higher key. Most of the signs of human touch have been studiously erased — no violins, less “grain” in the vocals — and we are left with the electro-basics of beat and blank wave.
The dehumanization has a purpose — it mirrors our imminent dehumanization. But while older prophets of future bleakness (say William Blake or Allen Ginsberg) saw ecstatic release as a way toward freedom, our favorite death dancers infect even ecstasy with the poetic and sonic machinery of bleak control. There is no release: only the inadequate circularity of dancing and dancing and dancing.