A Special Night
Omaha natives The Faint, which at one point 20 years ago featured the preeminent icebox Conor Oberst, haven’t released a full-length since 2008’s Fasciinatiion, but on their return they show they haven’t lost momentum. The band’s sort-of comeback album Doom Abuse is a brazen, dark and paradoxically upbeat slab of intensity that lives up to its maniacal title.
The Faint spend a lot of time in the scratchy darkness, but it’s hardly brooding. There’s an upbeat quality straight out of the College of Joy Division crossed with a winter term studying abroad at Skinny Puppy University, a brilliance the band has always mined but one that was intensified during the band’s hiatus as members of the Depressed Buttons.
“Mental Radio” is a catchy piece of industrial distilled through a filter of sugar pop and ’60s garage rock. “Loss of Head” is equally catchy and hops along as various distorted sounds slam into each other gorgeously. The music serves to remind the listener where Muse, The Editors and a slew of others derive a good chunk of their inspiration. Todd Fink’s tempered, monochrome vocals fit both songs well, dancing along a melody just enough to maintain that pop vibe but not so much that it descends into overly dramatic operatics where students of The Faint sometimes find themselves.
“Lessons From The Darkness” starts out with Fink executing a singy-talky chant before the song enters a fuzzy, multi-note onslaught buttressed by the messy thuds of airy drums. The arpeggios, those twinkly, skittering notes found so often in electronic music, add a necessary touch not only to this song but throughout the album.
Closer “Damage Control” is the soft, slow-dance culmination of all the distorted, haunting and catchy sounds that permeate the album. If this entire record is a prom held for dark, sardonic subcultures bathed in a somewhat pessimistic aura, then this song is the slow dance that closes the night. There’s a satisfying, life-affirming quality in the chord progression that glues together all of the fuzzy noise and spectral, note-bending synthesizers. The dirty vocals and the delicate drum machine tie everything in a beautiful, if abrasive, bow.
With Doom Abuse, The Faint return with a challenging, macabre record whose title sounds like something teenagers learn to avoid in Catholic school. Building on that, the collection’s kinetic, meaningful songs represent a rewarding comeback for stalwarts of the genre. This is the dance that kids from all the lunch tables will want to attend.