Schism can be a wonderful thing. In 1995, shortly after Todd Fink formed The Faint (then as the peculiarly named Norman Bailer), guitarist Conor Oberst quit the band and both parties went their separate ways. That is to say Oberst formed Bright Eyes and in retrospect it is easy to understand why the split happened. The existing members of The Faint were simply not making the music they wanted to make and their quest to break down stereotypes and define new boundaries forced them away from guitar-driven indie and country-rock. The band has produced six albums and two remix collections yielding varied results; not everything works with the best being 'Danse Macabre' following on from the cult success of 'Blank-Wave Arcade'. Now with a new record label (their own), The Faint release a new album 'Fasciinatiion' and first single 'The Geeks Were Right'.
From the opening few bars, 'The Geeks Were Right' sounds like a remix of The Killers - all buzzing electronica over stabbing guitars. Fink's vocoder-esque vocals simply echo this melody, right up to the hapless unimaginative chorus which should come with the warning: 'Mind The Gap'. Only in the second half does the song shake off this familiarity and attempt to take a different course. Fink's lyrics tell the prosaic tale of a distant future from "Egghead boys with thin white legs. They got modified features and software brains" to the Terminator influenced, but slightly obscure "Predator skills; Chemical wars; Plastic islands at sea; Watch what the humans ruin... with machines". You can see immediately what they have tried to do. Two minutes in and the electronics go haywire, just for a few seconds, before more of the same, to a very flat depressing ending.
Fusing dance and punk to create something new and compelling is proving to be a difficult art. Gone are the dark overtones and striking electronic gymnastics of the band's early work and the in-your-face punk stylings of previous album 'Wet From Birth'. The Faint has persevered were Oberst has simply flirted (see 2005's inconsistent 'Digital Ash in a Digital Urn') but this is like a modern day Kraftwerk without the charm or the innovation. The persistent guitar plodding lacks any form of deviation as does Fink - predictably in 'robot mode'. In searching for an identity, The Faint have not only failed to find it here, they have lost the one they once had.
-- CS (for The Music Magazine)