The geeks were wrong — more than two decades from their outset, Omaha electronic band The Faint are nowhere near done, back with quite possibly the best record of their careers. That's saying a lot, considering their Saddle Creek back catalog is stacked with winners. But Todd Fink and company have plenty left to surprise us with, and even more to say.
“I feel like we’ve been more active since we got back together to do Doom Abuse,” Fink says. “Since we got back together I feel like we’ve made a lot of songs faster than usual. The span between Fasciinatiion and Doom Abuse was long — we took a full three years off of doing the band, which is really the only time we’ve done that … When we came back together, we wanted to keep writing in the room, not overthinking anything — just kind of play whatever came out. We put out Doom Abuse, which was more like our rock style stuff. Then, we planned to do an electronic record after that.”
The new album, Egowerk, is in many ways, everything 2014 return record Doom Abuse chose not to be. It is a longer, more patient record that rewards infinite listens and seems to present more layers with every listen. It’s a sonically and thematically focused record, cold and calculated, as if to match the temperature of the world around them. An it is built for the dance floor, a location for escape that many cling to in times of anxiety and insecurity. On Egowerk, the “Glass Danse” world flickers on in real time, with a little help from the black mirror.
The Faint have long been dependable surveyors of the modernist landscape through which we stumble daily. Soundtracked by razor sharp dance punk, Todd Fink’s musings often feel like the narrative of a conscience a little braver to assess the social scale outside of the subjectivity of moralism.
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“I look at the world from a distant perspective,” Fink says. “Not necessarily as an individual, but as, more like, I’m looking at the planet and the humans and saying ‘Look at what they’re doing’. Here are the patterns that I’m noticing. Here are our motivations as humans. When I say it back, does it make sense? Should we be like this? It’s just a way of analyzing whether I’m on the right track, whether my motivations are in line with the way I think it would be best to be... I’m not seeing it from a self-interested way – more of an observation.”
With their latest work, The Faint fix their gaze on the rise and fall of Internet individualism, from the early days of digital expression to the hyperbolic hellscape in which we now find ourselves. Egowerk explores all angles of the digital communication medium, from the guilt-free mob of anonymity (“Chameleon Nights”) to the separation of the digital and physical self-perception (“Own My Eyes”). When our means of communication changes, so does our philosophy about its importance. While there are opportunities for connection, Fink makes the observation that these tend to be abused, and instead, turned to opportunities for division and competition.
"We all want to feel better,” Fink says, “better than the people who think otherwise. Otherwise, why even point it out? We are just looking for a way to define ourselves and define our opinions, at the expense of other people’s opinions. We’re just basically looking for ways to say ‘I’m different than you, and you’re bad.’ And it’s a sickness.”
Ten years ago, The Faint gave us “The Geeks Were Right,” a dystopian future prediction (nay, reality) of man slowly destroying the organic beauty of the world through technology and automation. In the present, those same cogs turned inward, automating our thoughts and emotions through hyperbolic synapses, designed to assign binary value to everything we touch. This, as Fink documents on Egowerk, is just as destructive.
“Many things tend to go in cycles,” Fink says. “For a while it was, ‘Let’s look for the things we have in common and try to get along’, but that’s just not the cycle we’re in right now. We’re in the opposite one. We’re just looking to be better than other groups of people. We want to join groups that we believe are higher up on some sort of moral scale, whatever it is. I’m more empathetic than you, or I’m more inclusive than you, which is ironic/ … It’s all just language — word tricks.”
The world is an insane place, and few have the gift Fink does to capture the incomprehensible without judgment or bias. As the world keeps turning, the Faint will continue to give us a flashing light in the fog of unknowing. Coupled with progressively more adventurous musicianship and production, Fink’s future premonitions continue to inspire and amaze.
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“These are just the types of things that I notice,” Fink says. “Other people tend to write about love or personal stuff, but you gotta be who you are. So I just try to stay as honest as I can.”
In typical The Faint style, the place that Egowerk’s impact will be felt best is in the live space. Always a prolific live act, The Faint kick off their new tour in Phoenix at the Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, and it will not be one to miss.
“We are really happy with how [the tour has] come out,” Fink says. “The way that we make our records is, we start them in the room, jamming on ideas, but they’re really all organized in the studio. Then we come back in and figure out how to play them live and change the things that help them come to life. That process went great this time — the best it has ever.”