With a hot location as a base and an even hotter sound, the Faint find themselves at the forefront of not one, but two prominent underground scenes. As the first band to gain notice from Omaha, Neb.’s Saddle Creek label, the Faint’s success paved the way for Bright Eyes and Cursive to make the inroads they’ve achieved this past year. But unlike those two bands, who occupy varying space within the “emo” genre, the Faint’s music is distinctively less angry and more danceable, with elements of ’80s new-wave that fit the five-piece squarely in the “electroclash” trend. Again, though, the Faint have found their own space within that scene: Unlike other prominent electroclashers like Felix Da Housecat and Ladytron, live and on their current album “Danse Macabre” (and the Astralwerks remix album “Danse Macabre Remixes”), the Faint take the synthetic sounds of the genre and make them human.
The Faint’s energy on stage is reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails — the band members flail in shadow and smoke, while post-modern video plays behind them in tandem with their song’s loops. Some of the clips are as impressively creative as the music providing their soundtrack; for one new song, the band stole clips from a 24-hour news channel, replacing the anchor’s mouth (a la Conan O’Brien) with singer Todd Baechle’s, creating the effect that the anchor was reciting the song’s lyrics.
It did all seem a little pre-packaged, but spontaneity has never been an integral part of electronic-influenced music. Judging by the fervent reaction of the sold-out crowd, who gleefully danced through songs both old and new, the Faint are on their way toward bigger things, no matter which underground scene they consider home.
The band’s influences are unmistakable, but they never sound like copycats. Baechle retains Cure frontman Robert Smith’s gentleness without aping his melancholy, while keyboardist Jacob Thiele pulls trembling analog sounds that suggest he studies pioneers like Kraftwerk.
Openers Les Savy Fav and Schneider TM both delivered very strong, very different sets. Les Savy Fav’s 45 minutes of performance-arty loose-punk was energetic, while the German techno trio Schneider TM made their Los Angeles debut with melodic trance from its album, “Zoomer” (Mute) and a well-received cover of the Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”