I WAS THERE: The Faint @ Terminal 5, 8.19.08

Todd Fink of THE FAINT

Text/Photos by Andrew Parks

Not to sound prude or anything, but we blame the semen song. As in the final track on the Faint‘s last full-length, the placenta-or-bust opus Wet From Birth. That’s where we started to think “really, guys?” While the melancholic melodies for “Birth” the song was dead-on–a downward spiral that mirrored a trip down, well, a birth canal–Todd Fink’s lyrics were rough, blood-spattered sketches at best. And we quote, “In the beginning there was semen/In a deep mound of flesh/And a crest that traveled/On a wave of their own mess/Through a tunnel of mucus/And onto a vault/With tourists and traffic/I just paced myself.”

Are you cringing yet? If not, you’re a better person than the entire self-titled office. Especially associate editor Aaron Richter, a guy who really doesn’t like the recently-released Faint disc, Fasciinatiion. Ask him why and he’ll act as if he is genuinely offended by the band’s first self-released effort.

It’s easy to understand why: like many (former/recovering) Faint fans, Aaron misses the Danse Macabre days and bits of Blank-Wave Arcade (“Call Call,” “In Concert,” that perennial crowd pleaser “Worked Up So Sexual”). Not because he’s one of those listeners that uses the phrase “well, they used to be good” a lot; because the band’s second and third LPs (we won’t even mention their real deal debut since the Faint even prefers pretending it doesn’t exist) sound razor-sharp and about-to-boil-over. As synthetic as the beats are and as in-need-of-a-good-editor as Fink is, the cuts themselves couldn’t sound more human, more foaming-at-the-mouth, more dangerous.

In comparison, Wet From Birth and Fasciinatiion suffer from far too many ideas and the feeling that everything’s over-produced. Since all of the Faint’s members are talented songwriters (guitarist Dapose even has an electro-shocked death-metal project), they seem to labor over albums to a tedious degree. In short, they take all the fun out of the Faint.

Which brings us to the Omaha band’s triumphant set at New York City’s cavernous Terminal 5 venue. From the second the Faint launched into the industrial-chug opening of “Agenda Suicide,” they had the place in a death-grip, from the meatheads that frequent this godforsaken venue to the X’d-up teens and 20-year-olds that clearly didn’t need a drink to make them feel like dancing. While self-titled loathes every edge-of-Manhattan trip we make out to this place, Terminal 5’s sound system is meant for music like the Faint–every one of Dapose’s distorted riffs, the squiggly and squirrelly synths of Jacob Thiele, the hammerhead low-end of Joel Peterson, and the lightly-treated vocals of Todd Fink. (We’re still trying to figure out if drummer Clark Baechle–Todd’s brother–has his kit triggered to effect pads since his playing is too mechanical and precise to ever dominate the mix.)

Through and through, this is why we got into the Faint in the first place: their live show, which is still one of the most rewarding experiences in all of indie/dance rock. Actually, rewarding is too mild of a word; band-affirming is more like it. (To give you an idea of how wild Faint shows can get, we almost got crushed by a couple of poorly-placed speakers at their Making Time set in Philly way back in 2002. Like literally crushed.)

So, yeah, please don’t go anywhere guys. Keep doing what you’re doing, except for one thing: the next time you need to record an album, track that fucker live-to-tape before an audience of diehard Faint fans. We need to start hearing the lightning-in-a-bottle dynamics of your shows on your albums again.