How does a band occupy its time in the decade following the release of a synth-rock milestone? In the case of Omaha's the Faint, the answer involves mediocrity and laserbeams. Shitloads of laserbeams. I expected to be amongst a mass of shaking booties and spilled cocktails, but the light show had the crowd at the Roseland on Saturday in a near-epileptic state. No ambulances were dispatched to the event, however, so I think we're in the clear.
2001's Danse Macabre was a gloomy, oddly danceable dose of "disco punk" that existed several blog years before the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem turned the term into a punchline, but its formula of retro electronics and spiky guitars draped in a goth-y veneer has not yielded greatness for those bold enough to trade their Marshalls for Moogs—present company included. The show opened with "Animal Needs", an anti-commercialist cacophony of screeching strings and thumping bass that's on par with the rest of the group's post-Macabre work: rigid beats and a heavy-handed dose of apocalyptic hokum. The kids up front were eating it up, but the fatigue amongst the periphery of old-timers in the back was palpable after just three songs.
The tandem of âYour Retro Career Meltedâ and âPosed to Deathâ electrified the yawners into a mess of swerving bodies and flailing appendages. Up until then, I was more worried about Clark Fink and co. turning their back on the classics that got them here than I was concerned with being bored. Luckily, theyâre not one of âthose bandsâ that refuse to shut up and play the hits. âAgenda Suicideâ and âWorked Up So Sexualâ pushed the floor of the Roseland to its limitsâa hazard noticed by no one on account of the pulsing explosion of light emanating from behind the stage.
The manner in which the Faint broke through when they did is somewhat of an anomaly: No one on the Saddle Creek roster was using synthesizers in the late '90s. The Omaha-based label was steadily gaining heat for its midwestern emo sensibilities, which makes it hard to imagine music like this reemerging from the heartland now that every Brooklynite with too much eyeliner and a bootlegged copy of Ableton Live is essentially doing the same exact thing. Between Cursive's divorcee meta-fiction meltdowns and Bright Eyes maudlin warbling, the ability of music directors at midwestern college radio stations to pluck Danse Macabre out from the submission pile and thrust it in to the spotlight is a minor miracle.
After closing with "Paranoiattack" and "Glass Danse", I considered adjusting my approach to the Faint's later works. Like an old friend that's followed a different path, it's best to remember the good times and check in as infrequently as possible to avoid disappointment. In that regard, it was a spastic, joyous reunion I needn't reenact any time soon.
All photos by Thomas Teal.