Although the Faint are from my home state, it took me until this album to really get into them. While I try decently to keep up with most of the local music, I sometimes lose track of bands and they release great albums right under my nose without my even knowing. That's what happened with Danse Macabre. It's funny, because actually I've known about the group for a long time. I got their very first 2-song EP when they first formed several years ago and found it decent (which is the same way I felt about their debut disc). When their Blank Wave Arcade disc came out awhile back, I thought it was good but not great. It was definitely a step up, but I still felt like they were trying to find a foothold and lock into a sound.
With this newest 9 song offering, the group has definitely hit their stride and come up with a winner. They've taken bits of dance, new wave, gothic, and pop and stirred it all up into a fat mixing pot of sound to create an album that's not only fun but actually has a message. There are bits of everything from Gary Newman to Depeche Mode and New Order, as well as newer groups like Covenant that pop up on the disc, and although there's a definite dance edge, the group also doesn't forget to rock once in awhile.
In fact, the album starts out with an awesome one-two punch of tracks that will make the stiffest of corpses (sorry, trying to keep in theme here) shake their booty. "Agenda Suicide" blasts out of the gates with a thumping beat and rumbling keyboards (as well as just the right touch of guitars) and lead singer Todd curses the life of the working drones while singing like a hopped-up Jarvis Cocker. "Glass Dance" doesn't let up, though, and the group builds up to each chorus with thumping beats and layered keyboards before letting loose with a couple squelches and completely slamming down the beat.
The group follows those two tracks up with a slower track in the machine-like "Total Job" before again kicking it out on "Let The Poison Spill From Your Throat" and "Your Retro Career Melted." The latter particularly builds into an amazing, slightly self-effacing sing-along full of robotic vocodored vocals and another rockin beat. The album works the best when the BPMs are higher and although slower tracks like the closer "Ballad Of A Paralysed Citizen" are a nice way to chnage things up, they don't compare to tracks like "The Conductor" (which features the meatiest guitars on the entire release, as well as a wailing 80's style axe solo).
To be completely honest, Nebraska has never really been thought of as fertile ground for great bands, but it seems like the tide might be beginning to change. Up until this point, most people have maybe heard of 311 and Matthew Sweet (or some more indie bands like Mousetrap, Lullaby For The Working Class or Mercy Rule if they were really into things), but with this new album by The Faint (along with critical favorites Bright Eyes and Wally Joyner), that might begin to change. Basically, Danse Macabre is angst you can dance to without it being called industrial.