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  Crooked Fingers  
  Crooked Fingers  
Release Date:
  circa Feb.2000  
Reviewed by:
  Malimus and Tracers  
Brendan's Commentary:

My minions are so darn cute sometimes, especially when you acknowledge that they are my pets. It's cute when two of them argue. As long as it doesn't become so violent that i have to lock one of them in the bathroom again.... Anyway, they also tend to listen to lots of similar music. Here are two minions arguing over the same album. Play nice, or no Minion Treats for either of you!

Here, you can read a review by Malimus, and a review written in response to that review by Tracers.

Malimus' Rating:
Malimus' Review:

There's a law of conservation at work here, a universal truth as certain as f = ma. Call it Malimus' 1st Law of Music-type Stuff if you need a name. Everybody is someone's FanBoy.

I am an Eric Bachmann fanboy. I can admit this with clear conscience, in an assumedly public forum. I think Eric Bachmann is a fucking musical genius. I don't remember ever hearing one of his songs and not liking it. I'm even willing to overlook the more smoked-out moments of his Barry Black incarnations. Such is the power of my fanboy-dom.

I wasn't always a fanboy, per se. Quite recently, actually, I was merely a fan. Then I happened to see Bachmann open for the Rock*a*Teens. (Technically he was the first act of a three set night where the headliner was Man or AstroMan? kicking off the E.N.I.A.C. tour.) As much as I'd always enjoyed the Archers of Loaf (and trust me, I enjoyed the living hell out of the Archers), Bachmann's solo set that night simply floored me. It is not an exaggeration to say that from the first note until the last I stood slack-jawed and dumbfounded. Literally. The set consisted entirely of Eric, his sampler, his guitar and the occasional accompaniment of Brian Causey on hammered dulcimer. It was sheer, stark, brutal music, the sort of music that twines its way through your ear canal, creeps slowly down your brain stem and wraps succinctly around your spinal column. A piano wire python slithering down your spine, it's slow force clear in its intent to modify you very DNA. That was the point, the single moment, where simple fan turned into rabid fan-beast.

So, I guess all rational-minded readers might want keep that in mind as they continue.

For those of you a little bit slow on the uptake, Crooked Fingers is the nominal working persona of Eric Bachmann, post-Archers. Most reviews tend to refer to the self-titled album as "solo material" or something like that, but I personally think that does disservice to Brian Causey. While it is obvious that Bachmann is the driving creative force behind Crooked Fingers, Causey's off-key accompaniments provide some very real texture to the work. Clearly these songs belong solely to Bachmann (a cursory listen to any random track will leave no doubt as to whose world you're visiting) but it seems slightly disingenuous to lump Causey in with the rest of the stand-ins as random Empire State members. [Bachmann's label mates, the band Empire State, filled out the rest of the band for the Crooked Fingers tour. -- Ed.]

With that said we can get into the meat of this review.

Go buy this fucking album. Go do it now. Search high and low, visit every local, independent or chain music store you can find. Browse the web before those guys go out of business. [Warm Records are online at Coincidentally, the album is also available at CDNow. -- Ed.] Do everything within your power to get this album. Your very soul depends on it.

Well, perhaps not your very soul, but something like that. Just trust me. This music needs to be heard. This album needs to be listened to, over and over again, until you can croak out the lyrics in perfect time. The world will be a better place if you add yourself to the painfully few who know why Eric Bachmann will eventually be referred to as "sadly missed". While it's no longer just Eric, his sampler and his guitar, the addition of cello and a backing band, the occasional backing vocal and whatnot mostly add meat to the already beautifully defined exoskeleton of Bachmann's sordid world.

I suppose I should tell you something about what to expect. Besides, there seems to be an unwritten rule among critics that no review of this album can be written that doesn't reference either

  1. the Pogues,
  2. Tom Waits, or
  3. Leonard Cohen.
So, there you go. Hope that gives you a sense of what to expect. The songs are from a world of dirty, infested streets, dirtier and more infested bars, and the spaces in between. The songs are about the vices which build such a world, and the grip of such a world and how it affects your soul. It's not music for the faint of spiritual fortitude, it's simply music for people who understand that the world is not a Britney Spears video.

So. I think I've rambled on long enough about this. Go buy this damned record! Sell your old Bruce Springsteen albums if you have to. Sell your plasma if you have to. Just go get it. The world will thank you for it eventually. And if it doesn't, you can be content in your superiority as you drink away another day.

Tracers' Rating:
Tracers' Review:

Do you rate an album on what it is or what it should be?

Ultimately, in any review of the new Crooked Fingers album, you have to ask yourself this question.

Over the course of the past year, I've had the pleasure of seeing Eric Bachmann (the main force behind the Crooked Fingers) perform numerous solo shows. During these concerts, his set hasn't varied much -- it's pretty much the material covered on the album. And it's been him and guitar -- standing up under the spotlight, banging out these songs as a minor-keyed dirge, sending shivers down my spine.

No wonder I've really really been looking forward to the recording -- if it could recapture even half the spirit and melancholy of his performance, it would be absolutely bloody incredible.

So I was a bit surprised to hear the full instrumentation on the first track, Crowned in Chrome, which in and of itself picks up where the title track of the Archers of Loaf's last album, White Trash Heroes, left off. And I was even more flabbergasted when I heard the strings and speeded up tempo of one of the best songs on the album (New Drink for the Old Drunk). By the time, I listened to the mannered vocals of Man who Died at Nothing at All I'd pretty much determined that this album was going to be nothing like I would have imagined.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the songwriting is very strong. And on the whole, I think as a debut, the album pretty much is a logical progression from the later work of the Archers of Loaf. On the other hand, it seems that the emotional content of the music is overwhelmed by the somewhat obtrusive production, where the vocals are buried under the strings, loops, and lap steels. Furthermore, Bachmann's mannered vocals (in the style of Neil Diamond) grow increasingly annoying as the album progresses. It's as if Bachmann et al had too much time to record -- remixing, adding, and fiddling with the songs to provide a barrier between the raw content and the finished product.

So how to judge this? Obviously it's far far superior to much of the crap out there. And the songs alone are some of the best I've heard Bachmann write. But....compared to the potential, this just seems like a whole lot of glitz and glamour in danger of signifying nothing at all. So I give this 3 Sponges -- I don't think it's extraordinary, but parts of it resonate. just dump the damn string section.

And that's a shame.

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