Faust - "Tell The Bitch To Go Home" (Something Dirty)
It feels strange to say, but every reference point I found myself making while listening to the new Faust was framed in terms of contemporary groups it reminded me of. Whether this is a symptom of a reverse-influence effect of some kind, or simply a sign of how thoroughly krautrock has been assimilated into the lexicon of "underground" music, or both, isn’t readily apparent. Faust and their peers (O.G. krautrock) have certainly had a profound impact on so much modern experimental music, art rock, and even more conventional "indie" rock that it becomes hard to even hear a new Faust album without also hearing all of the bands that have re-purposed something from them in their own work.
This makes for an odd listening experience at first — a strange sensation akin to watching someone try to reassemble a branch after it’s been fed through a wood chipper. Can, Kraftwerk and Neu! may be name-checked more often — their influence generally hits you over the head when it’s there — but there’s also more Faust in everything than the group tends to get credit for. So much so that, in the case of Something Dirty, it can make it a challenge hearing the Faust in Faust.
And in 2011, is anyone really looking, or expecting Faust to make an album that sounds like So Far? They probably couldn’t do it if they tried (not that they would want to). Even in the company of their first-wave "classic" krautrock peers, Faust were on the edge, pushing boundaries with a restlessness only approached by Can and Amon Düül II. They were, and remain, truly on their own trip, at once more traditionally "rock" and more boldly avant-garde than the bulk of the groups they are seated with in the kraut pantheon. While they’ve never been content to sit still creatively, one thing that remains constant is their devotion to the original vision of the group as a true collective. As much as anything, this explains their enduring vitality as a band, making music that still feels as adventurous and challenging as their initial efforts, while sitting comfortably in the present. Against all odds, they remain relevant.
Since their return to full-time activity in the ‘90’s, Faust have been a rotating mongrel mix of two to three original members bolstered with outside, younger blood to keep them on their toes. For Something Dirty, O.G. members Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier are on board, augmented with Gallon Drunk/Bad Seeds member James Johnston, and Geraldine Swayne — an English painter, filmmaker, and musician. The quartet run straight out of gate, opening things up with the propulsive, Wooden-Shjips-ish "Tell the Bitch to Go Home." From here on in, it’s a veritable feast for the senses, as the group ducks in and out of divergent styles and moods with the agility and ease of a band truly comfortable in its "safety zone," yet unafraid to wade into uncharted swampland. The more Industrial, Neubauten-tendencies of some of the group’s early, and late-’90s work come home to call now and again, but for the most part Something Dirty is a much easier to digest affair than Faust has offered up in some time. (Granted, that only means that songs recall Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or the New York No-Wave discordance of early Sonic Youth rather than, say, Throbbing Gristle.)
Over the years, the members of Faust have proven themselves to be a rare exception to the generally catastrophic "anything goes" approach to music. Yes, they even get into some spoken word/poetry moments here (at least it’s in French), but these passages prove less of a distraction than they should, holding up within the impressively durable framework of the record. Echoes of Faust’s enduring impact leap to the forefront constantly, but by the end of Something Dirty, it is clear that the anxiety of influence remains on the present generation, not vice versa. I can’t think of another group making music this assured, inventive and relevant this far into their career. Klang on, forevermore.