The Faint

Wet from Birth (Saddle Creek)

Sep 22, 2004 at 4:00 am
Because of its synth-heavy sound, it would be very easy to lump the Faint in with the current '80s revival that's been floating on the fringes of popular culture. Of course, if science ran on the same broad generalizations that music criticism seems to, we'd be calling dogs, horses, and cows by the same name because they do all have four legs and a similar shape. What scientists realized is that it's the differences that are important. And it's the differences between the Faint and its pseudo-peers that make the band special.

Throughout its decade-long career, the Faint has been consistently innovative with its sound -- but not always consistently good. Starting out in Omaha as a café folk band (featuring a pre-Bright Eyes Conor Oberst) and becoming more amorphous with each new iteration, with Wet from Birth the Faint has turned into something much more schizophrenic than the average Duran Duran revisionists. "How Could I Forget" pulses like early Underworld, pounding and obtuse, then smashes right into the aggro-disco of "I Disappear." Every Faint record seems to have at least one pointless track, and on Wet it's "Erection," which sounds doubly so following the violin-and-guitar-meets-bass-squelches beauty of "Southern Belles in London Sing." "Southern Belles" represents the other Faint standard: the beautiful pop song that in a perfect world would be a huge hit. Other tracks on the record veer from maniacal German shout-downs and political rants ("Drop Kick the Punks," "Paranoiattack") to songs about being born (um, "Birth").

Though reminiscent of later Primal Scream or Satisfact records, Wet from Birth is definitely a beast unto itself. By avoiding trends, including the electroclash "revolution" of a few years back, the Faint has kept its own identity, and as long as the band keeps putting out records like Wet, innovative yet unique, it should survive whatever comes next as well.