11 January 2006

Overlooked Albums from the 90's - #14

Blank-Wave Arcade by The Faint

Once upon a time, in 1999, I was making music in my apartment with two synths and a drum machine. I didn't exactly know what I was doing, but if I did it would have come out sounding just like Blank-Wave Arcade because I was trying to make the music I really wanted to listen to. You know the deal, nobody was writing them like they used to so I figured it may as well be me...that is until I heard The Faint for the first time. I still remember hearing songs from this album on 3wk and ordering it from Saddle Creek the same day. A week or so later I got a package with the album and a handwritten note thanking me for the purchase and my love affair with The Faint had begun.

Why did I fall so hard for this band? Well because I love things like The Cure, Gary Numan, The Human League, Pulp, and early Blur; and clearly, so does The Faint. For people swooning over all of the 80's revivalism that has characterized a good part of the 00's indie music scene thus far, this album is essential. Why it doesn't get more attention/recognition I'll never know for sure. I think this little nine song, twenty six minute long, release is one of the best albums put out in the 90's. At least, if I were to make a list, I'd put it somewhere in the top twenty I'd think. Have I mentioned yet that these guys play a kick ass live show?

Anyway, time for something a little different. I'm aware that Bethanne from Clever Titles Are So Last Summer feels the same way I do about this record (actually, she kind of likes it a little more than I do) so I asked her if she wouldn't mind sharing some of her thoughts on Blank-Wave Arcade with EAR FARM. See, she knows a thing or two about great music and reading two opinions are always more fun than one. Without any further delay, here's what she had to say:

"There are albums that give you the best introduction to bands that you have heard so much about, but wanted to fully appreciate the music that they created. For me, it was Blank-Wave Arcade that properly introduced me to The Faint. Not only was it the first record I bought that was released from Saddle Creek Records, but it was also a CD I had bought on a whim. Listening to it, I found it to be a genius record. It's certainly a record that is overlooked because of the fact that the albums that followed this one - 2001's Danse Macabre and 2004's Wet From Birth - were more dramatic and harder than the dark-wave synth sounds of Blank-Wave Arcade.

I can listen to these nine songs - full of sex, transportation, perversion, and movement - and feel the originality of this record. The centerpiece of this record - and The Faint's signature song - is "Worked Up So Sexual", a song about a stripper's occupation and the questions about her job. The keyboard riff and the drum beat furiously create the jerking rhythms that back up the lyrics with swagger and sensuality.

While "Worked Up So Sexual" - and the other sex-related songs "Casual Sex" and album opener "Sex Is Personal" - bring a frantic social commentary about the sexual aspects of humanity, the album's other theme of "bodies in movement" (or transportation) "In Concert" and "Call Call" come to mind as the two bounciest songs on the album with their light pogo-inspiring beats that will get people dancing around in their living rooms or at the bar.

Personally for me, my favorite song on the album is the spoken word piece "Sealed Human". Not only does it feature a different vocalist on the track (instead of singer Todd Bachele, keyboardist Jacob Thiele is the one reading the lyrics in this particular song), but it is a sonic poem about a collision in city transportation. The lyrics start up as everyday observation as people take subways to get from place to place. However, all things go awry as catastrophe strikes en route to the destination. The simple beat that backs the vocal track is simple and the keyboard parts are at their heaviest. And it's clearly the most underrated song on the album and certainly a rare song where humanity and chaos reside hand in hand.

As a whole, Blank-Wave Arcade is an album that I can never get sick of. Every time I put it on my iPod or listen to it on CD, I get goosebumps and feel giddy inside. This is an example of a band that got me excited about music again. It's a breath of fresh air in the indie rock music scene that so many people should give it the recognition that it deserves. It's truly overlooked (and shamefully) because of the albums that preceeded it and it was truly the (experimental) start of a unique sound from a band from Omaha, Nebraska. A city - at the time - that wasn't famous for a band to take stereotypes and shatter them with a dual-themed record. Blank-Wave Arcade is a classic. And not many people realize it."
Now that's a heckuva write-up. Go visit her site each day for more goodness, but in the mean time...don't you want to hear some songs from this album?

Listen:
  • "Call Call"
  • "Worked Up So Sexual"
  • "Sealed Human"
Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
#12 - Seven by James
#13 - Why Do Birds Sing? by Violent Femmes

if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list

Also, it appears another blog is onto this "Overlooked of the 90's" idea:
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s

4 comments:

Kelly said...

I wish I would have known about the Faint in the 90s. But at least I found them eventually. Their live show blew me away. Their latest album Wet From Birth is also ridiculously good.

c said...

awesome stuff. i got into this album a few years after it came out. i totally agree on the bafflement of why they are not bigger than many other "pretenders"...

Eric said...

Harmacy is a great record. I thought Bakesale was much stronger though. There is a lot of filler on Harmacy.

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