Faust fans likely know that the current incarnation of Faust isn’t the full classic line-up. In fact, there have been plenty fluctuations in the band’s roster over the years — so many that I’m not going to bother enumerating who’s present and who’s missing. Suffice to say, there’s a couple of original members here.
So let’s get the most unreasonable expectations out of the way; Something Dirty, the latest from long-running Krautrock figureheads Faust, is not on par with their best work. The album falls into lazy, self-satisfied repetition too often (which is really saying something for a Krautrock band), and even the best moments are nowhere near as challenging or surprising as Faust’s landmark early albums. A band not producing their finest material this far into their career should shock no one, and if die-hards can calibrate their expectations appropriately, they are likely to find enough in Something Dirty to keep them from feeling let down.
And, to Faust’s credit, they’ve kept their combative wits about them, for the most part. The band is now, and always has been, comprised of lifelong provocateurs, and so it’s completely expected for them to load up Something Dirty with short-form musical experiments both clattery (“Je Bouffe,” “Pythagoras”) and spooky (“Thoughts of the Dead,” “Whet,” “Dampfausless I”). It’s the more drawn out passages that comprise the first third of the album that are disappointingly uninspired.
Nearly six-minute opener “Tell the Bitch to Go Home” features some nice rhythmic work, but the distorted riff that the song is built around becomes boring before the first minute is up. “Herbststimmung” is basically straightforward post-rock with all the requisite prettiness and predictable building that implies. Like “Tell the Bitch to Go Home,” the title track squanders some cool interplay between the drum and bass by filling every gap with loads of feedback and skyscraping guitar. Fortunately, after “Something Dirty,” the album turns to a sustained, tension-filled moodiness that culminates in the extended nightmare of “Lost the Signal.”
Faust seems to have the formula for staying fresh generally right; stay noisy, stay weird and unpredictable. These are things that shouldn’t necessarily be untenable, no matter your age. Yet Something Dirty, though never a total dud, is distinctly lacking the edge that made Faust so unique in the first place. The distance in quality between the best and worst songs on Something Dirty isn’t that great. This band used to be willing to fail hard, which made their successes all the more potent and memorable. From Faust, mid-level work is far more dispiriting than an outright piece of shit.