Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fasciinatiion - (2008)

After a four-year break that involved building their own recording studio and setting up their own label, Blank.Wav, the Faint return with Fasciinatiion, a set of songs that are as ambitious as they are sleek — and tweaked: "I might distort myself a bit," Todd Fink sings on "Mirror Error," but that's an understatement. Virtually any sound that can be altered or augmented on the album has been, illustrating the blurring of man and machine that is one of Fasciinatiion's major themes. On "Forever Growing Centipedes," fuzzed-out beats and keyboards zap and twitch like they're attached to electrodes, while "The Geeks Were Right"'s chunky bassline gives the song's dystopian rock an electro-inspired backbone. While Wet from Birth's symphonic flourishes have been pruned, Fasciinatiion is just as ambitious as its predecessor, spinning cautionary tales about science, surveillance, and pop culture sleaze and setting them to kinetic, self-consciously synthetic backdrops. This love-hate relationship with technology is the cleverest thing about the album — at least in theory. In practice, Fasciinatiion is almost as much of a mixed bag as Wet from Birth was; songs like "A Battle Hymn for Children" take the album's themes in overwrought directions. Other tracks have interesting concepts but don't do much musically, such as the tense childhood memories of "Fulcrum and Lever" and "I Treat You Wrong," which dissects a manipulative relationship with the clinical distance of an autopsy. On the other hand, "Fish in a Womb"'s squirm-inducing words ("That slice in my neck, it's oozing jelly clear as glass") detract from the song's subtly pretty melody and arrangement. The Faint's pop skills match their conceptual ambition more than a few times, however: "Machine in the Ghost" and "Mirror Error" are bouncy and spare, with skeletal rhythms just strong enough to support their surprisingly sweet melodies. "Psycho," the album's most overtly playful track, resembles a slowed-down Brainiac song with its squeaking synths and rubbery guitars, and "Get Seduced"'s pop culture tirade comes attached to some of the band's most nagging hooks. Fasciinatiion clicks enough of the time to make it a step forward from Wet from Birth, and despite its unevenness, at times it can be fasciinatiing. (

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