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The Faint, of Omaha, might have been way ahead of their time…if this record had come out in, say, 1983. But it didn’t, and no matter how good it sounds, New Wave is still two decades old. The prerequisite pop hooks are fast and airtight, and they twice break down into noisy off-rhythm beats that would send Joy Division’s Peter Hook running for the nearest ’80s dance party. The uptempo beat really doesn’t stop until the last track, when “Sealed Human” starts like a lethargic drill sergeant driving his troops toward the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. Before that, there are three obvious hits (“Sex Is Personal,” “Call Call,” and “Worked Up So Sexual”) that weave familiar pop tropes into dancey distortions that school the pants off Trent Reznor. The rest of the record is really only bleeps and blips and the stuff of half-assed sorority theme parties. But the nasty repetitive nature of Reagan-era pop eventually nabs these bad boys: Almost to the end of the second side, and seemingly out of fresh stuff, the Faint do a rare (and definitely not recommended) hook transplant, moving a healthy piece of song from “Call Call”
to the dying body of “In Concert.” Despite its flaws, Blank-Wave Arcade is worth a spin (just skip the second-to-last track), but if you grew up in the ’80s, have a hankie handy.—Mike Kanin