by Andrew Garrison
The Faint, out of Omaha Nebraska, have been making music for more or less the last twenty years with same(-ish) band nucleus. Back in 1995 they were playing under the name Norman Bailer, and Conor Oberst was a member, who moved left shortly after the first (and only) Norman Bailer record, Sine Sierra. From 1998 to 2004, The Faint was recording on Saddle Creek Records, putting out a fair amount of music and acting as the pied piper for angsty teens. Following 2008’s self-released Fasciination, the Faint went on a hiatus, until the 2012 festival circuit. With 2014’s Doom Abuse, the Faint are not reinventing much of anything. It is more like that they are reminding the fans who have perhaps forgotten what it is like to be angsty, nihilistic and political critics all at the same time, the Faint is here. They are still loud, still new wave-y, still electronic, still angsty, and above all else, still weird.
One of the more perplexing things about this album is I can’t tell how seriously frontman Fink is taking himself. Songs like “Help in the Head” and “Unseen Hand” are relatively straightforward, and by most accounts, serious. However, then we get tracks like “Animal Needs”, where Fink seems to assault nearly ever modern convenience. From the lavish – Pools and Jewelry; to the obscure – Straws, bubbles, slacks and crayons; to the gross – soap and toilets. He also decries the use of perfume, so one could assert that Fink’s vision of the world is a smelly one. The Faint however must believe that we do, in fact need synthy laser sounds, because they are all over this track and the album itself. The duration of “Animal Needs” is one giant, What the fuck? moment. And it isn’t alone, “Dress Code” which, more or less shouts over two minutes about dress codes, I think? Or “Evil Voices” which, most repetitive and notable takeaway is, “Evil voices lie when they say you’re in love,” which again, I have no idea what to take from that.
Doom Abuse is best enjoyed if you operate under the assumption that no one involved with the band is taking themselves seriously, and that the ultra-nihilism, non-sequitur political commentary is done in a tongue and cheek fashion, almost as a caricature of their earlier selves. Not much has seemed to change musically or otherwise for the Faint since 2001’s Danse Macabre, and maybe that is the joke?
For the bulk of Doom Abuse it just seems like business as usual for the Faint, with the high energy, fast tempo riffs and synth bits that sound like some sort of abused love child between the Cure and Tears for Fears and unabashedly catchy and redundant hooks. If you liked the Faint back in their heyday, ten years or so ago, I don’t need to tell you to go check out Doom Abuse. However, if you are reading this and were, I don’t know, like 4 when they started harnessing angry teens, and a darker, screaming, conspiracy theorist Paul Oakenfold sounds like something you’d be into, it might be worth a listen. Then again, I doubt there are any 18 year olds who get that reference.