Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Faint: Blank-Wave Arcade (1999)

(Saddle Creek)

This is everything people who don't listen to indie rock hate about indie rock and think the whole of it embodies -- smug, smarmy, impersonal, self-consciously aloof. And "cool," of course. Not that plenty of cool and detached bands haven't been great, but there was always an undercurrent of sorrow or desperation this thoroughly lacks; see Joy Division. Even White Light / White Heat has some emotion and/or feeling besides clipped and edgy. This is music kids decided to write when they got bored with skating and wanted to foist their claustrophobic (lack of a) worldview on unsuspecting grownups. The Faint -- amazingly enough, formerly co-led by Conor Oberst, which is particularly ironic given his wide-armed heart-on-sleeve lyrics and vocals -- write chilly, sneering songs about what sounds like dreadful sex ("Sex Is Personal," "Worked Up So Sexual," "Casual Sex," sense a theme?) but you can dance to them.

Firmly in the Orange Juice / Joy Division / Suicide mold that would soon spawn Franz Ferdinand, because they think that stuff is really drab and deep and fail to sense its arch humor, this can be heard as innovative in its derivations if you like, and it certainly isn't the worst party album you could cue up. So the key to enjoyment is the same as when eating a hot dog: just don't think about what you're consuming, for even a second, and you'll have a decent time. (The hot dog's better for you, though.)

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