Surprisingly, both of Portland’s esteemed weekly papers dismissed the Faint as being a retro-appropriation act while neglecting to mention why that doesn’t affect their music in any negative way. More surprisingly, both publications seem to have lumped our heroes into some kind of new-wave comeback scene (where is that again?), with the more conservative paper praising the originality of openers Les Savy Fav. While Les Savy Fav is a great band, its sound is among the most prevalent of popular underground acts in America: a tight, funky, Solid Gold-style rhythm section punctuated by harsh guitar stabs and alternately yelling and crooning vocals, ala Liars, Radio 4 and Display, just to scrape a few from the upper crust.
Although Faint singer Todd Baechle does sound an awful lot like Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon, and though that is not where the comparison ends, only a true geezer would be offended by such a likeness. Who takes Duran Duran seriously enough to be offended by a group copping its style? While D.D. was terrible in many respects, it was great in a few, and to see a much better group taking those positive elements further is a very good thing. While it is true that with 1999’s Blank Wave Arcade the band was self-consciously emulating the sound of Reagan-era forebears like Duran, Soft Cell and the Tubeway Army, it has too much the feel of an experiment in genre to be held against a group in the long run. With 2001’s full-length Danse Macabre, the Faint came into its own, seamlessly incorporating black-metal guitar passages, more modern, glitchy beats and an underlying theme of urban decay, reflected in the broken electronics as much as the dark lyrical bent.
In addition to its musical accomplishments, the Faint is notable for being way the hell sexier than Duran Duran or any of its new-romantic predecessors. On stage, the group is hot enough to get the limbs of its most self-conscious, nerdy fans moving. And the detached elitist, typically an impressive monument, is revealed as much more pass퀌� than Faint’s retro posturing. Against two video screens that mixed exciting, bleating lines and patterns with dramatically angled images of the band members, the group turned the Crystal Ballroom’s atmosphere nearly into that of some huge, outdoor New Order-headlined festival, which, of course, is not preferable to the seedy, smoky dance club conjured in the Faint’s music, but remains an impressive feat of showmanship.