Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: SQE
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Six years is a long time, especially in music. Trends come and fads flitter away into the ether. What was once the flavour of the month is now akin to a rotten, fetid mess snubbed by indie snobs and buzzband hyping websites (no names, I can't afford the lawsuits).
Exploding in a squall of feedback and white noise, “Help In The Head”—the opening track from Doom Abuse, the first album of new material in six years from Omaha’s The Faint—sets us up for a rollicking, fast-paced trip to and from the very beginnings of electronic music. Echoing equal parts Ministry, Gary Numan and, at times, Dead Kennedys (albeit with better vocals), Doom Abuse is a cathartic slap in the face from a band that sounds completely revitalized after its multi-year slumber. .
Within the family of Saddle Creek, the Omaha label founded by Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, The Faint never really made sense sonically, their music a sort of black sheep amongst the other artists. In its prime, the band would have fit in more with what was happening in New York in the early ‘00s, with dance-punk and a fondness for the less vibrant color spectrum—not necessarily perpetually dark, but overcast for sure—catching on. Black sheep turns out to be a more apt metaphor than usual.
Their first collection of new music since 2008's ambitious, electro-rock-studded Fasciinatiion, Doom Abuse finds the venerable Omaha post-punk-dance-metal-pop hybrid speaking a language familiar to anybody who has followed them since their 1995 Conor Oberst-era inception. Helped along by the meaty first single "Help in the Head," the Faint are as dissatisfied as ever with society, but they don't let the permeable injustices of the world get in the way of having a good time musically, and while the 12 cuts that make up their appropriately titled sixth long-player are still raging against the machine, they do so with the resigned wisdom, or work ethic, of age. Sometimes, all of the sticking it to the man can feel a little too on the nose, as is the case with the relentless yet redundant "Dress Code" and "Loss of Head," but there are enough dyed-in-the-wool, Faint-astic crowd-pleasers like "Animal Needs," "Unseen Hand," and "Your Stranger" to goad a pit into a proper feeding frenzy.
Before modern, synthy dance rock came into vogue, before dubstep, even before The Postal Service, teens looking for something to satisfy both their us-vs.-them, heartbroken moodiness and the need to dance like crazy people had the dark new wave of The Faint. The Faint made it cool for hipsters to dance in the late ’90s, and for that we thank them. 1999’s Blank-Wave Arcade and 2001’s Danse Macabre were indie dance night staples, where basement-dwelling, Adderall-riddled teens could shake and sweat to something that didn’t involve the terms “boy band” or “pop princess.” The Faint have in some respects come a long way from that initial dance revolution success, which pulled them out of Omaha and into the national limelight.
In their latest release, indie dance-rock pioneers The Faint embrace their industrial post-punk spirit. Their music has always been on the "noisy" end of the spectrum, and Doom Abuse is no exception. Every element dances on the verge of clipping or glitching, and The Faint's brand of controlled chaos holds the album together like a corset. .
When the Faint released their debut album Sine Sierra, Conor Oberst was a band member and they were known as Norman Bailer. That was nearly twenty years ago, and if that makes you feel old, imagine how the Faint must’ve felt when they went on hiatus following 2008’s Fasciination. For sullen teens who thought Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine were for jocks, the Faint's angsty, political electro-punk could've seemed like the most exciting shit imaginable, and by the time they reunited to play festivals in 2012, everyone was free to admit “Agenda Suicide” kinda kicked ass.
The Faint’s 2008 album, ‘Fasciinatiion’ was a little bit… well, lame. A massive disappointment. Not nearly as good as the band who gave the world the still magnificent ‘Danse Macabre’ should put out even on a bad day. And it’s as if the Nebraskan synth-punks knew it: shortly after the record’s release, they – as the official word goes - “ceased to exist”.‘Doom Abuse’ is then as much a surprise to the band as it is to us – and it’s a pleasant surprise, at least.
It’s typically right around a band’s fourth or fifth album that the innovation ceases, replaced by a sense of settling in. The identity is established, the fan base has peaked, and it’s time to carry on with a tried and true approach. Such is the place the Faint occupy now, as evidenced by Doom Abuse, the band’s seventh album. That it is their first album after a hiatus — previous record Fasciination released in 2008 — shines a brighter spotlight on the question of their continued relevance.
Once the missing link between the disparate early 00s New York scenes of electroclash and The Strokes, The Faint foretold new rave with ‘Danse Macabre’ around 2001. Having jerk-danced their way off the Ultra New Wave map in 2008 they now return with album seven, their goth-tinged electro-rock undimmed, their melodies unsettlingly wonky and their heads filled with scary voices (‘Help In The Head’, ‘Evil Voices’, ‘Mental Radio’). A good seven years out of date, ‘Doom Abuse’ is pure synth-pop mania, frequently teetering between unadulterated Trent Reznor pop brilliance (‘Unseen Hand’, ‘Lesson From The Darkness’) and impressions of Skrillex driving a monster truck through a Savages gig in a video arcade (‘Animal Needs’, ‘Dress Code’).
2013’s best punk album wasn’t defined by slashing guitars or hyperactive drums; the best punk record of 2013 was brought to you by the electronic nightmare modernism of Kanye West. Sharpening, melting, and warping craped-up keyboards and cyborg drum machines until they howled like an expressionist reboot of Suicide, Yeezus managed to be last year’s most breathless, vitriolic, and urgent album by capturing the maelstrom angst of punk without the crutch of its stereotyped trappings. And the more I listened to it, the more I found myself hoping Yeezus wasn’t simply a seismic event, but was also the start of an epoch.
During the ’00s indie-dance boom, The Faint rose to prominence by muscling keyboards back into rock music with geeky flair. But over time, the Omaha band’s most enduring tunes—including the flailing new wave homage “Worked Up So Sexual,” the gothic post-punk of 2001’s Danse Macabre and the corrosive “Paranoiattack”—also tended to share DNA with punk rock’s freewheeling energy and raw immediacy. When The Faint de-emphasized these qualities on 2008’s slick, digital-focused Fasciination, its music suffered; the record felt labored over and forced.