During the late '70s and early '80s, new wave was the catch-all phrase used to describe anything that wasn't punk rock but was still vaguely interesting. Later, with the crush of MTV wonders like Duran Duran, Culture Club, the Thompson Twins, and Flock of Seagulls, the term just stood for synthesizers and haircuts. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And even if there were, The Faint probably wouldn't give two figs. The Omaha, Neb., quartet almost prides itself on being slightly uncool: Its members like to dance at other bands' shows, they like to dance at their own shows, and they probably wouldn't deny a lingering appreciation of the Human League.
Like the early, Kraftwerk-influenced League or the short-lived band the Normal, the Faint has a penchant for danceable electronic pop songs played in minor keys with dark themes. On the suggestively titled Blank Wave Arcade, synthesizers are the flesh and bones onto which everything else clings, including the slightly pinched, Anglo-compliant vocals of Todd Baechle and the trigger-and-sampler-rich drumming of his younger brother Clark Baechle. Even so, there is nothing cold or sterile about Blank Wave Arcade. The music bounces with sweaty, human effervescence before plunging into pools of guitar that keep us floating in this millennium, if only just barely. Compared to the lyrics of most original new wave acts, Baechle's thoughtful ruminations on the nature of casual sex, strippers, ambulance chasing, cultural apathy, and escapism are psychological masterpieces, but that shouldn't get in the way of the petulant delight of the music. The Faint performs on Sunday, July 1, at Bottom of the Hill with Pleasure Forever and Soiled Doves opening at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $8-10; call 621-4455.
For this month's installment of Outdoor Cinema, the delicate, often brittle edge of girlhood is explored in "Girlish," a collection of shorts by three directors who use natural poetry and humor to tackle mutual discomfort. One film, The Four-Letter Word, bandies about the pre-sexual fetishes of a teenage girl -- a horse, a penile abstraction, a science lab, and a waxing room where she removes unwelcome hair -- with the help of a Greek chorus-like bunch of high school cheerleaders. A second short, 24 Girls, offers the on-camera auditions of a group of young women who share memories of a girl who died before entering the fifth grade. Cuba 15 portrays a small-town girl outside Havana as she prepares for her quinceañera, the traditional passage into womanhood of a 15-year-old. The girl, Tzunami Ortega Coyra, vacillates between two very different worlds with ease and confidence -- comfortably discussing both her "much older" boyfriend and admitting that she wants to live with her parents forever, or dancing seductively for the camera before bounding through town like a reckless youngster. Lastly, Blow Them Up focuses on the breath and folds of plastic that bring sex dolls to life. Filmmakers Kristy Guevara Flanagan and Laura Purdy will be on hand, and an omnivorous barbecue will precede the screening. Don't be tricked by the warm weather; bring layers for the patio. "Girlish" will be held on Tuesday, July 3, at El Rio at 8:45 p.m. Barbecue starts at 6:30 p.m. Ticket price is $7; call 282-3325.