The Faint – Wet From Birth Review

The Faint – Wet From Birth
Saddle Creek, 2004

1. Desperate Guys
2. How Could I Forget
3. I Disappear
4. Southern Belles in London Sing
5. Erection
6. Paranoiattacks
7. Drop Kick Punks
8. Phone Call
9. Symptom Finger
10. Birth

Let’s get this out of the way before the review goes any further — yes. Enjoy the solo in “Birth” featuring a racoon penis bone banged upon a muffler. If nothing else, this sums up everything Wet From Birth seems to encompass: a whole lot of experimentation and weirdness, with nothing really making a whole lot of sense.

Those with a love for ’80s new wave synth pop absolutely ate up The Faint’s 2001 offering, Danse Macabre. Never mind their two prior outings which were clearly evolving toward that third release — Danse got them a tremendous amount of mainstream attention. It worked with the club scene, the goth scene, and everything inbetween by taking a cheesy sound but making it sound cooler than cool. While the rest of the music world was swept up by generic pop, generic R&B, and generic rock, The Faint put a twist on a generic anachronism and made it fresh and different.

Perhaps that’s the thinking behind Wet From Birth — keep twisting, keep innovating, keep dredging up old sounds with a new twist. Rather than get stuck in the same type of techno bounce sound (even if it was different in itself), The Faint chose instead to dabble in a whole lot of other genres and make them theirs. Not much else can explain the choice of the band’s new favorite instrument, the violin. Yes, lots of poppy dance music, but with violins! While they’re not the first band to throw in this classical stringed instrument into a world where it rightfully shouldn’t belong (see also: that dog!), at least an attempt to move from the ordinary is welcome.

The problem with this philosophy, however, is direction: yes, there are now violins present. The instrument is used tastefully and is unintrusive for the most part, but it also happens to be only one of many experiments taken on this disc. If there’s anything one can learn, it’s that schizophrenia is a mental disorder, not a gift. And that’s all one truly learns from Wet From Birth.

Busting out the disco track on the first cut, “Desperate Guys” almost seems to exist to say, “Oh yeah! I remember this band, and they were neat. They still sound neat!” Aside from the addition of the violin, it’s quite reminiscent of Danse Macabre, and in the same vein, it’s the old sound in a good way. This sound does rear its head throughout the disc here in there, with “I Disappear,” again mid-disc with “Paranoiattack,” and near the end with “Symptom Finger.” However, that’s the last you hear of the old Faint.

The surprises are in spades, and not always good. “How Could I Forget” and “Phone Call” are sort of off-beat, down-tempo tracks (the latter with a taste of reggae), still in the techno vein but sounding viciously pretentious. I’m not sure at all what to say about “Southern Belles In London Sing,” as it really just sounds like a Smiths song that someone snuck up behind and threw a techno beat overtop. “Erection” is minimalistic in a weird Depeche Mode-on-heroin sort of way, but completely non-memorable and seemingly odd for the sake of being odd. Still, none of this at all tops “Drop Kick the Punks,” which honestly might not offend me so much if it seemed more of a punk parody than just bad punk. There’s counting in German, there’s derivative Sex Pistols emoting to the point where it’s almost pathetic, and then…. the techno beats. It’s goofy and out of place.

While it’s all great for a band to grow and reach out feelers to new sounds, there’s something to be said when a band goes from a very specific type of sound and then releases 34 minutes of multiple personality disorder. Try new things, yes; the violins are a great addition to the band’s dark sound. Even the occasional feeling of a Radiohead meander here and there isn’t that detrimental to the band’s individuality. But please, one short album is no place to mix up every influence the band has ever had. The Faint lost what made them different and fun, instead churning out an art album with little effort to create something catchy and danceably fun.