During the ’00s indie-dance boom, The Faint rose to prominence by muscling keyboards back into rock music with geeky flair. But over time, the Omaha band’s most enduring tunes—including the flailing new wave homage “Worked Up So Sexual,” the gothic post-punk of 2001’s Danse Macabre and the corrosive “Paranoiattack”—also tended to share DNA with punk rock’s freewheeling energy and raw immediacy. When The Faint de-emphasized these qualities on 2008’s slick, digital-focused Fasciination, its music suffered; the record felt labored over and forced.
Thankfully, Doom Abuse reclaims both the vibrancy and spontaneity of the group’s best work. For starters, frontman Todd Fink came up with many of the lyrics off the top of his head, a process that produced plenty of abstract images (e.g., “Ice Age skeleton swears at the Bible”) and choppy sloganeering that riffs on The Faint’s long-standing obsessions: crippling paranoia, the suffocating nature of corporate America, and anxiety about the future.
At times, Fink’s vocals are so muffled (or distorted by effects) that it’s hard to understand what he’s saying; however, this imprecision only adds to Doom Abuse’s claustrophobic, unsettled vibe. Like Danse Macabre overdosing on caffeine, the record boasts nervous tempos, shrieking keyboards, and drilling drums. The result is a jittery patchwork of synthpunk pogos (“Evil Voices,” the Devo-esque “Dress Code”), industrial-icy electronica (“Animal Needs,” “Unseen Hand”), metallic punk zaps (“Salt My Doom”) and zany dance-pop (“Scapegoat”).
By the end of Doom Abuse, this frantic energy winds down and culminates in a grinding closer, “Damage Control,” whose grayscale synthpop recalls The Human League’s early days. But even this outlier resonates, thanks to the cloud of regret and sorrow that permeates its lyrics. Whether agitated or brooding, Doom Abuse is a pointed reminder that The Faint is most comfortable when things are slightly askew.