Disco-dance-tech gets more compelling as The Faint go their own way on Fasciinatiion. The Faint have long stood apart from the worldwide disco-dance movement, from their origins in the not-so-high-tech Omaha, Nebraska to the fact that the band briefly included indie-rock softie Conor Oberst (a.k.a. Bright Eyes – QRO album review). But they’ve broken even more from the pack on Fasciinatiion. While the results might not be as danceable, they’re far more interesting.
Unlike their last record, 2004’s Wet from Birth, The Faint don’t open with their first single, but bump “The Geeks Were Right” to the second spot, after opener “Get Seduced”, and of all the decisions the band made, this was probably the worst. “Seduced” is banal in its anti-celebrity culture lyrics, and simplistic in its dance-tech, while “Geeks” works a strong combination of disco-dance and geek-future. Thankfully, the rest of the record hews much more towards “The Geeks”; Fasciinatiion is at its best when it takes the ‘traditional’ techno-dance sound and puts a whole new spin on it.
The best example of this, even better than “Geeks”, is “Fulcrum and Lever”. This dark childhood story is made unique and engrossing by its outlook and binary-type sound. “I Treat You Wrong” adds a haunt, even a plea, but with a removed nature that actually makes it all the more interactive. The penultimate “Fish in a Womb”, another childhood song, is sadder, even wistful, its compel. Finisher “A Battle Hymn for Children” is a bit heavy-handed in its ‘does God want war?’ message, but still has underlying emotional strength, thanks to the reverb-remove of the vocals and press of the beat, which portray the emotionless, robotic persona that threatens to engulf the singer.
There are still some more straight-up disco-dance numbers on Fasciinatiion, like the high & nice “Machine in the Ghost”, upbeat and even poppy “Psycho”, forgettable mid-disc dance “Mirror Error”, and the more ‘traditional’ disco-dance expanse “Forever Growing Centipedes” (which loses itself somewhat in its mixed verse), but those aren’t what holds your attention on the record. It’s the breaking of new ground, going both more robotic and more emotional that is the most interesting. The Faint left longtime local Omaha label Saddleback (home of Conor Oberst, amongst others) to do it all themselves on Fasciinatiion, and that freedom has let the band step away from the standard model and customize.