Omaha. Home of emo-sobber Connor Oberst's Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek Records, an oasis amid the dust, slaughterhouses and flatlands of mid-America. Hardly the place to host the rebirth of synth-pop a la early Duran Duran and The Human League, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, OMD and more. But The Faint, after their last sexually charged disc, Blank-Wave Arcade, have released a throbbing, post-rock synth album that's so retro it sounds cutting edge. Go figure. Boasting a live show mind-blowing in its '80s authenticity, bravado and style--red stage lights, un-invasive fog and strobe effects--The Faint gamely dance away as if it were 1982. (Their recent Cat's Cradle show led one locally based booking agent who'd never seen the band to comment, "Now I get it.")
But Danse Macabre, the band's third full-length, is more than a mere paean to early dance club synth bands (especially of the British-variety): The songs are hooky, the bassist is a groove-maniac, and the band is so tightly, whitely unfunky that Kraftwerk would be proud. Post post-moderne? Neu New Wave?
Whatever you want to call them, The Faint's lean, sexual '80s club music rocks harder than most guitar outfits, all pulsing beats, bottom-heavy rumbling synth lines and choruses that stick in your head like an alien implant (the '80s chip). Give a listen to Todd Baechle's clipped, vocodor-laden screams on "Your Retro Career Melted" or his liberal use of Simon Le Bon-isms (done with a punk aesthetic), and you'll be smitten with Faint lust. The band's muscular approach to the genre proves that dance music doesn't have to be fey: Give a listen to "The Conductor" or "Glass Danse" if you need convincing. Track nine ("Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen") recalls Midge Ure and Ultravox with its slower tempo, orchestral strings and minor-keyed chorus. On Danse Macabre, The Faint move beyond revivalism to claim the '80s synth-rock territory as their own. And if that puts the black in your wardrobe, then this disc is for you.