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With innovation comes responsibility. As the technology behind pop tunes becomes more and more advanced, the musicians/electricians who make the stuff bear a certain obligation to the rest of us: Use your new toys for good, not evil. Of course, evil is relative in so many ways. But on my vast gray scale of popular culture, certain aspects of that ’80s radio sounddetached vocals, cheesy synth accents, unimaginative 808 percussionrank pretty dark. With its last recording, Omaha, Neb., quartet the Faint proved that it much prefers the soulless bleep of 1984 to the gritty fuzz of 1992 or the toneless rumble of 1999. On (Blank-Wave Arcade), vocalist/synth fella Todd Baechle and his friends attempted to update Simon Le Bon and his. The tunes were fun, dancey, and sometimes even surprisingly harsh in a welcome way. But they all sounded pretty much the samewhich is probably why the band went out and hired a secret weapon/guitarist in the person of Dapose. The former member of Lead (“Omaha’s premier death metal band”) offered something that Duran Duran never had (and Radiohead never will): some honest riffage. And with the legitimately skilled axman aboard, hopes could only be that the Faint would turn in a more rockin’ third LP. It’s strange, then, that the product of the Faint’s latest trip to the studio, Danse Macabre, doesn’t really have any guitar on it at all. Instead, Todd Baechle, drummer Clark Baechle, bassist Joel Petersen, and the famed Dapose have made another record that plays kinda like snippets from the Top 40 circa 1985. Danse Macabre is an album of interchangeable dance-club numbers, each featuring bass-drum thumping, keyboard pitch-shifting, and, as a colleague put it, OMD-esque orchestral maneuvering. Though there is one truly neat gimmickthe fuzzy almost-
guitar synth line that drives “Total Job”there isn’t a single example of what we in the music biz might call a song, just a collection of some very expensive bells and whistles. The worst thing is that some of us thought that with this new recording, the Faint would be able to get its arms around both pop music and the ever-changing technology that fuels it. Whatever. I guess we’ll just have to see if (yawn) Radiohead can do any better. Mike Kanin