Robert Alfons of Trust.
Friday’s Faint show had a decent turnout despite the valley’s first snowpocalypse of the season. I went to the show excited about Trust and nothing else, which is why I was disappointed that the opening band’s sets had to be shortened to accommodate Club Pure, Salt Lake’s weekly playground for misfit queer youth. Robert Delong’s set was over within 15 minutes of the set show start time, and with an unusually slow line at the door, I missed it entirely.
Still in line and mere feet from the door, I heard the distinct hazy synth opening of “Shoom” and my goth pop melancholy went into overdrive. The Canadian synthpop band Trust is the project of Robert Alfons, whose recordings feature Maya Postepski of also-Canadian synthpop band Austra. Check out the interview with Alfons here. As soon as I got through the doors I rushed into the crowd and tried desperately to lock eyes with Alfons, who was dressed in modest black and hopping wildly across the stage. Beside him were his two band members working the band’s electronics. They played “Chrissy E” and the energetic “Bulbform” to a meager crowd of perhaps a dozen people who’ve heard them before. Alfons, true to the goth spirit, only addressed the crowd through his songs. Each song sounded exactly as it does on the album, which was slightly disappointing; I was hoping for at least some experimentation. Still, Alfons hit every note perfectly in his trademark range, shrill to baritone, and had a commanding vocal presence. They played the slow burning “Candy Walls” and finished with the danceable “Dressed for Space” as they exited the stage after only playing about 20 minutes.
The Faint is currently on tour peddling the reissue of their 2001 album, Danse Macabre. I know that, based on all their associations (Depeche Mode, New Order, The Human League), I should fall head over heels for The Faint. I never did, and I might be able to articulate why after seeing them perform.
Their antic electro dance-rock does not approach those seminal ’80s legends. More apt comparisons might be within the early-’00s electro-pop scene that birthed bands like The Killers and Franz Ferdinand. A monochrome synth crunchiness pervaded each and every song they played, as did singer Todd Fink’s often vocoder-laced vocals. This was an egregious use of vocoder, which, for its own sake, feels more at home in a gross Tim and Eric sketch than in dark electro-pop. What I disliked is that their performance was rigidly normal; nothing about it interested me or incited me to care.
If they are goth anything, they are cheese goth; the incorporation of kitsch horror synth into a sort of funky gothic techno has freaky effects. It’s probably what Oingo Boingo might have sounded like if Danny Elfman wasn’t a compositional genius. I dislike hating on bands, because it’s so useless, but personally I just can’t find anything in their oeuvre that doesn’t give me an instant migraine. Obviously, many would disagree with me because the show was wild and fun for Faint fans, who really understood the band’s mantra "Danse!/ Danse the Danse Macabre!"