Once merely wee sensitive emo rockers, the Faint has gone through almost as many metamorphoses in ten years together as Prince has costume changes. This time around, they've beefed up the darkness factor and added strings for a heightened sense of drama. But the effect is so histrionic, it borders on camp. "How Could I Forget" sounds like it's lifted from Phantom of the Opera
, with singer Todd Baechle as Michael Crawford's understudy. Equally, "Southern Belles in London Sing" is like rush hour -- all over the place but never getting anywhere. Things start to look up in the home stretch, albeit briefly. The simplicity of "Erection" is brisk and refreshing, packing a zippy, one-two squelch with a beat reminiscent of handclaps en masse. And no tush will remain idle once club-hungry "Paranoiattack" drops. Alas, there go the highlights.
The rest is predictable. Though the Faint reinvent themselves with each new album, they still lack a distinctive cohesion that would otherwise strengthen their vision. If they absorbed more classics like ESG and Tubeway Army while striking the filler from their diets, their next incarnation might resemble more of the wicked new wave synth band they really are. -- Kelly Shindler