The Faint should be, like, so over. Between the stack of releases by electro-rock bands in the past two years, the group's media saturation on the heels of 2001's Danse Macabre, and its consequent gig opening for No Doubt, you'd assume that the only way the Faint could keep its cred intact would be by pulling a Liars-style reinvention. But no: With Wet From Birth, Omaha, Nebraska's numero-uno synth-loving goths have reemerged with a new album a lot like the old one, which nevertheless sounds fresh enough to make you remember why the new new wave sounded new in the first place.
The big difference this time around is in the production. Wet From Birth has epic sheen, and the throbbing strings that open the record and appear in arrangements throughout add a new layer to the Faint's familiar industrial-tinged dance punk. Producer Mike Mogis, the Zelig of Faint label Saddle Creek, also adds some skittering electronic beats into the mix, while lead singer Todd Baechle has committed himself to writing more traditionally melodic songs. (His lyrics, however, continue to be nonsense.) Mostly, though, Wet From Birth is the best reminder this year that a cracking beat and a stabbing bass line are pretty much irresistible, even if you've heard it all before.