When I was growing up, my fellow kids and I used the term “dark wave” to describe a certain kind of band. They were gloomy, yes, and they used synthesizers. But they also seemed more committed to putting their stamp on that thing we called “new wave,” which also consisted of a lot of rockers who picked up synths. “Dark wave” bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, to us, wanted to make more distinct sounds with the same set of instruments.
When I think of this subgenre today, the first contemporary band that pops into my head is The Faint. To me, the term dark wave captures what The Faint are all about. They aren’t goth and they aren’t exclusively always about being down. In fact, some of the actual music can be quite bright, snappy, and upbeat. But they are not always the most optimistic people when it comes to human nature. And nowhere does the band capture all of these elements better than on its outstanding album Danse Macabre.
The Faint’s former label, Saddle Creek Records of Omaha, Neb., remastered and re-released Danse Macabre in October, some 11 years after its first release. The timing of this remastered project is somewhat mysterious — it seems like it comes a little too soon. Nonetheless, The Faint haven’t had a new full-length album since 2008’s Fasciinatiion, so they seized the opportunity to tour on the reissue of Danse Macabre, playing all nine songs of the album in a row in the middle of a robust set that served as an excellent career retrospective.
Todd Fink and his cohorts were in good form when they brought the tour to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday night. One of the enjoyable aspects of watching The Faint perform was Fink’s energy and style. He simply could not sit still. When singing, he bounced around from one spot to another, constantly in the throes of a jig of sorts. The jig continued when he took to the keyboards. While most keyboard players stand stoically behind their instrument, Fink still bounded around, transferring his personal energy into his playing. So the kinetic effect was not only a more lively stage show but also an equal liveliness in the music.
The Faint opened their show with an intriguing new song, “Unseen Hand,” off a new EP available only on vinyl and only on tour currently. The new material is pretty good, a little slower and a little more melodramatic than songs from their last album. The band revisited the EP in their encore, opening up the final three songs with “Evil Voices” from the record.
After five songs, The Faint played “Agenda Suicide” and we were into the Danse Macabre. The Faint accompanied the song with a projection of the mood-setting video, a fantastic piece of work for a band for which music video is unfortunately a weak point. The very crowded 9:30 Club went crazy and everyone on the floor started cheering and dancing. (I would say this show was 90 percent full — quite a victory for a show with a price of admission greater than $20 and offering little new material.) “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat” was another crowd-pleaser. Really, everyone at the show ate up every track — and justifiably so. The album sounded terrific live and The Faint were spot on with their delivery of it.
The band had a few more songs from all of their albums, including their cover of Sonic Youth’s “Mote” before wrapping up the show with a very slick performance of “Worked Up So Sexual,” which sounded perfect. They returned for their well-received encore, which also included “I Disappear” (the best song from their fourth album, Wet from Birth) and “Paranoiattack” (from the same album).
The Faint came with two openers — fellow Nebraskans Icky Blossoms and Toronto-based Trust. Icky Blossoms, a new band on Saddle Creek, seemed very promising with a set of glam-new wave dance tunes from their self-titled debut. Songs like “Babes” offered a very simple but effective glam-punk attitude.
I was totally surprised and delighted by Trust. The synthpop duo of Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski inverted expectations in a couple of ways. First, Postepski, the woman, played the synthesizer, contrary to most popular synth duos. Second, Aflons’ unique vocals occasionally carried a high pitch that could evoke a young Gary Numan at times although the Trust’s songs have a flair for rollercoaster theatrics than the more dispassionate Numan would embrace. Songs like “Candy Walls” and “Bulbform” offered dynamic vocals and absorbing synths.
So the show was altogether good, demonstrating that The Faint Plays the Danse Macabre was a worthy idea. The tour continues tonight in Boston before going to Canada and wrapping up in Omaha next week. If you’re on the fence about catching The Faint without a new album, by all means go see them now because it’s worth it! And hopefully, they will return with more new material soon.