<preform>Charlotte Hatherley, ULU, London<br> The Faint, Islington Academy, London</preform>

Your brain, your body, your quiff...
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The Independent Culture


Remember that girl at school who didn't say much, but one day her A3 art pad spilled out of her bag onto the floor and it turned out that she was a really talented painter? That was Charlotte Hatherley.



Remember that girl at school who didn't say much, but one day her A3 art pad spilled out of her bag onto the floor and it turned out that she was a really talented painter? That was Charlotte Hatherley.

The paintings were dutiful and affectionate pastiches of other artists' styles, of course - you felt it was a lack of confidence, rather than an absence of ability, which held her back from originality - but they were lovely to look at, all the same.

If Hatherley were the opportunistic type, she'd have launched her solo career within six months of being recruited into the boys' own club of Ash as auxiliary guitarist, and all the attendant fuss which came with it.

Instead, she waited several years, and her quietly likeable power-pop debut has snuck out with the minimum of fuss. And, on the evidence of Grey Will Fade, she's been hiding her light under a bushel so enormous it must surely be called Garry.

Most of her songs are deeply, and blatantly, indebted to their influences. And she's honest about it: almost too honest. The storming lead-off single and opening track (both tonight and on disc) sounds exactly like Kim Wilde and it's called - you guessed! - "Kim Wilde".

Hiding behind a curtain fringe and only speaking in a slightly awkward, "this is a song about..." manner, she isn't the most charismatic performer, but you get the impression she's probably a good laugh to go down the pub with.

Remember that boy at school who used to lurk in the corner at teenage houseparties, smiling an enigmatic, inscrutable, slightly superior smile, and you were too scared to talk to him in case he judged you? That was Todd Baechle.

The Faint, now four albums old, are an anomaly, in their state (metropolitan minds amid the endless cornfields of Nebraska), in the US indie scene (too synthetic) and indeed in the Electroclash scene (too rocky). And that, one feels, is exactly how they like it. Lead singer Baechle obviously thrives in the role of the mercilessly observant outsider.

The Faint's previous album, Danse Macabre, dealt with the politics of performance, with tracks such as the deliciously titled "Your Retro Career Melted", "Posed To Death" and "The Conductor". But the new one, Wet From Birth, concentrates more on sex, and the stupid things we do to get it: most successfully on "Erection", a Glitter-via-Goldfrapp glam stomper.

Regardless of the intellectual content, there's something incredibly physical about The Faint on a basic level - not just the pulverising bass guitar, but the low synth notes and the thump of the drums - and also on a hair-raising, trebly level, with the thrilling cardiograph zig-zags of the synths.

Furthermore, they're about as far from the cliché of the static, diffident synth band as it's possible to get. They're possessed by the spirit of Nick Rhodes' shoulderpads and Mike Score's aeroplane quiff, and ricochet around the stage with Eighties panache, a Brownian blur of blackness in front of their film projections.

The Faint still move the brain and the body with such efficacy that it ought to send all other synth-rockers running back to school.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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