Eleven years is an awkward anniversary to celebrate, but that’s how long it’s been since The Faint released Danse Macabre, the third and best of the punk-industrial-dance-rock shape-shifters’ five albums. Saddle Creek recently issued an expanded and remastered edition, and the tour to support it brings The Faint to the Troc on Dec. 6.
The Faint have a history of bad timing. They released Danse Macabre in August 2001 and played the Church on Sept. 12; by then, their eerie electro songs about doomed office drones and police barricades were overshadowed. I mean, the crowd still danced like there was no tomorrow, and some of us appreciated the illicit irony — all protests to the contrary, we knew that wasn’t dead — but any chance of mass appeal had gone out the window like so many doomed office drones. (Too soon?)
Too bad, because Danse Macabre is great, a 35-minute thrill ride that accentuates the absurdity of our culture by taking it — and itself — dead serious. “Agenda Suicide” sets the tone with swelling synths and frontman Todd Fink (né Baechle) pondering the worker’s conundrum: If we spend our lives toiling to pay for “pretty little homes,” we’ll never have time to enjoy them. Nine tracks later, Fink’s subdued delivery on the closing “Ballad of a Paralysed Citizen” turns a nimble dance between drummer Clark Baechle’s clipped beats and Gretta Cohn’s moody cello into the chilling testimonial of a lifeguard crippled by a false alarm. In between, the burbling “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat” and the wheezy “Your Retro Career” careen between tense verses and cathartic choruses.
The reissue tacks on two contemporaneous originals, two remixes, two covers and a DVD. But even distilled to its nine-song essence, Danse Macabre is The Faint’s finest; there’s nothing more compelling on their early indie rock or their later electropop. A tour-exclusive 12-inch EP features their first material since 2008’s Fasciinatiion, but even though “Evil Voices” is a hooky slice of synth-punk, The Faint may have set too high a bar too early on. Still, few bands make dour sound so fun.