Saddle Creek - 2004 - 35 minutes

I reviewed The Faint's previous album, 'Danse Macabre', with a jaundiced eye that, in retrospect, seems harsh.

Painfully retro? It might have been - if there is one band that completely defines the suitjacket-over-t-shirt, asymmetrical hairstyle crew then it's The Faint - but there were enough moments of pop genius to qualify it as one of the more interesting albums of the year. 'Let the Poison Spill Straight From Your Throat' was a particular stand-out, a stunningly good title and a thumping great monster of a song.

The Faint appear to have watered down that synth-heavy 1980s recipe a little on 'Wet From Birth'. Those trademark sounds still pop up and vocalist Clark Baechle's armoury of yelps and throaty yowls are as involving as before, but The Faint's hunger for new sounds and musical tricks may have diluted their strongest selling point. From the cascading strings of 'Desperate Guys' and 'Southern Belles in London' to the gypsy rhythms of 'How Could I Forget', the boundaries are impressively stretched, despite a very dodgy Dr & The Medics impersonation on 'Erection'.

But the band's search for musical originality has been taken to the extreme. According to The Faint's website, 'Wet From Birth' contains a solo played using a racoon's penis bone. In 25 years of being a dedicated music fan, this is undoubtedly the best racoon's penis bone solo I have ever heard.

But when The Faint drop the gimmicks and concentrate, as on 'I Disappear', they are still an awesome proposition. Matron, pass the smelling salts, I feel Faint.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Desperate Guys - How Could I Forget - I Disappear - Southern Belles in London Sing - Erection - Paranoiattack - Drop Kick the Punks - Phone Call - Symptom Finger - Birth