The Faint's 'Animal Needs': Concert Review

Kyleen James
 The Omaha band offered a visceral, energized rendition of songs off their extensive catalog.

The Omaha-based dance-punk band never has less than unadulterated passion for the moment, even when their equipment breaks down.

As The Faint opened the first of three headlining performances at the Roxy, the first song on the Omaha dance-punk band’s set list felt strikingly prophetic. On “Animal Needs,” a gritty punk-laced number off the group’s recent album Doom Abuse, frontman Todd Fink eschewed the supposedly requisite objects of contentment, railing into the microphone against cars and rules and weapons and even shirts. The foursome ripped into the chorus, the instruments pounding in simultaneous aggression with the lights onstage, as Fink repeatedly chanted, “We’ve got animal needs.” Although the song is likely a reaction to consumer culture and the human predilection to possess, in some ways it also felt like a self-definition of the band itself.

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Since the late ‘90s, when The Faint fell into the spotlight with their raucous 1998 album Media, the band has harnessed a sort of raw, animalistic sensibility. The music, embracing a synthesis of guttural punk-rock and synth-laden dance-electro, mirrored its listeners’ base instincts, stripping away the usual pretenses to find the visceral nature that lies beneath. One of the band’s most beloved songs, from 1999’s Blank-Wave Arcade, which they played to palpable fervor last night, is “Worked Up So Sexual,” a number about strippers that contains an unabashed sense of carnal desire.

That is the feeling The Faint bring onstage, although it took last evening’s sold-out audience about six songs to fully let go and allow themselves to fall into the bacchanalian dance party that eventually erupted. The band employed little flair beyond a few artful video screens and some brightly colored lights. The 22-song se tlist melded tracks from the majority of the group’s releases rather than heavily focusing on Doom Abuse, which is The Faint’s first new album in over five years. The new songs, although much more punk and much less dance-like on the recording, fell seamlessly in between favorites like “I Disappear,” “Dropkick the Punks” and “Victim Convenience.” The thread that connects The Faint’s music, it seems, is not the actual instrumentation, but instead the live presentation, driven by an undeniable energy bandied back and forth between the musicians and the audience.

Fink and his bandmates had little to say throughout the show. A hiccup arrived partway through the set when one of the many cables connecting the musicians' various instruments and synth machines malfunctioned. “I can’t believe we’ve never played here before,” Fink mused as his bandmates scrambled to fix the cable. He gestured to his brother, drummer Clark Baechle, and noted, “He kind of runs the show and needs a minute to get his shit in order.” Keyboardist Jacob Thiele added, “This is the portion of the show where we just dick around for a little while.” But even when pausing to fix their gear, it never felt like The Faint had anything less than unadulterated passion for the moment.

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By the time the 90-minute set was nearing its end, the audience had surrendered to the pervasive feeling of animalistic intensity, stripped of everything except their experience of the music itself. “Agenda Suicide,” arguably one of the band’s best songs, which opens their 2001 album Danse Macabre, surged through the Roxy, each angular synth beat reverberating through the crowd, the dance-inducing notes skittering and heaving together. The encore, comprised of three numbers, including the new song “Lesson from the Darkness.” The show hit its peak on “Paranoiattack,” a track that drags its grinding instrumentals out for several minutes before hitting a propulsive climax that involves Fink howling “paranoia!” over and over again. The audience, imbued with the joy of letting go during a live show, shouted along with him.

Doom Abuse, released in April, was met with some trepidation, particularly on a critical level. After a hiatus of several years, the band’s gritty, punk-rock vibe contained a different vibe than on their prior releases. But, on the stage, there is no such discontinuity present. In fact, new tracks like “Evil Voices” and “Help In the Head” contained such vitality that it refreshes the take on Doom Abuse itself. As music culture has shed its reliance on guitars and instead leaned on synth elements recently, The Faint has perhaps never felt more relevant. They’ve been doing what these new artists are now doing for nearly two decades – and their live show reveals that they do it with no pretense or expectation. As the show drew to a close, Fink still remained mostly quiet between songs. He paused only to yell one thing into the crowd, a phase that in some ways sums up the entire performance: “Fuck, yeah.”

Set list:

Animal Needs
The Geeks Were Right
Desperate Guys
Mental Radio
Your Retro Career Melted
Victim Convenience
Posed to Death
I Disappear
Evil Voices
Let the Poison Spill From Your Throat
Damage Control
Take Me to the Hospital
Dropkick the Punks
The Conductor
Help in the Head
Dress Code
Agenda Suicide
Worked Up So Sexual

Lesson from the Darkness
Glass Danse