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
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 http://www.thewarmsupercomputer.com.
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
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.
- the Pogues,
- Tom Waits, or
- Leonard Cohen.
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
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
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.