The Faint are anything but

By Jon Garrett

It was a night of surprises, of embarrassing schlock and unexpected glee. But more on that later. The evening’s openers, Interpol, proved just right, justifying their rapidly growing fanbase with a show of cool professionalism. Their set began promptly at 7 p.m., and I am pleased to report that they played to more people than many headliners often see at the Metro. Apparently, word has traveled fast about these latest NYC upstarts. Armed with their pensive brand of ’80s-flecked indie rock and clad in muted jackets and ties, they easily won over the assembled throng. Particularly noteworthy were their renditions of “Stella” and the almost assured future single, “PDA,” which rocked considerably harder than the version that appears on the Grey EP that I purchased following the performance. The live experience of Interpol also revealed a certain sonic similarity to early U2, previously undetected by this writer, although certainly not objectionable. The only major gripe over the course of the half-hour was their relative lack of stage presence, although their lethargy might be explained by their recent long stints in the studio and infrequent live dates. Perhaps sensing that the band’s delivery had been a bit flat, lead vocalist Paul Banks ended on a humorous note, announcing that “The Lush” would be up next. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m the lush. They’re The Lust.”

If only The Lust had had Interpol’s sense of humor. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a shred of subtlety or self-awareness over the course of their 40 minute ode to sexual frustration. Looking like Trent Reznor’s more muscular cousins but sounding closer to the faceless industrial grind of Gravity Kills, The Lust proceeded to jackhammer the crowd into submission with their two bass, two keyboard, and drums setup. Songs? Forget it. You were grateful when there was so much as a change in tempo, from maybe jackhammer to the electric power drill. And, as if we didn’t notice, in between their pelvic thrusts and phallic onstage guitar slinging, they made sure to remind us that these songs were indeed about sex. The steroid-pumped lead singer was even polite enough to dedicate one of his self-described “songs about fucking” to “all the little children out there.” Of course, any one over the age of 13 looking for an emotion deeper than that was shit out of luck.

Playing on their night off from the current No Doubt tour, which had them at the Aragon this past Saturday, The Faint showed no signs of fatigue and was by far the evening’s most pleasant surprise. When I saw their show at the Fireside Bowl a year or so ago, the group seemed dreadfully out of place. Their gothic new wave stylings didn’t go down easy with the jaded hipsters, who heckled the singer’s bleached-blond locks and caked makeup. Can’t say I was terribly impressed either. At the time, I remember thinking that they might as well have placed a wall between the audience and the band. They were overwhelmingly unenthused and the fog machines barely masked their obvious discomfort.

Monday night’s show might as well have been the product of a different band altogether. None of the members played their instruments with both feet on the ground. Dancing was rampant, in the audience and onstage. And lead singer Todd Baechle bounded from corner to corner of the stage, occasionally waltzing with the microphone cord. When he wasn’t totally caught up in the moment, he managed to acknowledge the crowd, even daring to balance himself on a few heads in front row. The music itself hadn’t changed a bit, although to be fair, their newer tracks appear to incorporate more guitar-produced noises than in the past, but the real innovation was their approach to performing. This was a group in full command of the audience and confident in their rhythmic stride. They may be revivalists, but at least now they’re energetic revivalists.