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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Crooked Fingers
Reservoir Songs
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
The best thing about both the Archers of Loaf and Barry Black - Eric Bachman's two outlets previous to Crooked Fingers- was the evolution and originality displayed on each release. No two Archers of Loaf or Barry Black albums ever sounded the same. Few people would realize Ickey Mettle and White Trash Heroes were even the same band if they did not know before hand. Artists willing to evolve and change always deserve more respect, even when the chances they take don't turn out well (see half the songs on White Trash Heros, Archers of Loaf's swan song).

Crooked Fingers self-titled first album continued this tradition, coming from left field for those listeners expecting another Barry Black CD. Bachman's rocking, odd time style had been replaced with a singer/songwriter narratives influenced by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. To me, this was a wonderful revelation. It challenged the listener with its restrained songwriting and drunken lyrics.

Unfortunately with Bring On The Snakes, Crooked Fingers second album, we got the feeling that Bachman was stagnating for the first time. Yes, the music was still pretty good, but let's face it- the sound was boringly similar to the first Crooked Fingers album.

Reservoir Songs, Crooked Fingers' latest, is a five-song EP of all cover songs. Like Cash and Waits before him, Bachman takes the covers and makes them sound like he wrote them. Bachman's collapsing drawl makes it hard to believe anyone else could have ever sang the words.

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" was originally penned by Kris Kristofferson and, as well as "The River" by Bruce Springsteen, are not surprising choices for Crooked Fingers. The songs sound great, but are hardly revelatory. Since these are obviously two of Crooked Fingers influences, they don't sound much different than a typical song from either of the full-length albums. "The River" particularly proves Bachman has had many dreams of being New Jersey's prodigal son. In any case, both songs sound good, but are way too familiar for my tastes.

Two surprising choices, Prince's "When U Were Mine" and Queen/ David Bowie's "Under Pressure" come across much better. You really get a new perspective on the songs after hearing them through Bachman's arrangements. Who knew Prince could sound so desperate and frank. "Under Pressure" really shines. Hearing Bachman's take on Bowie's voice really blows the listener away. Makes me hope Bachman will do another and cover "Space Oddity." Leaving out the song's famous bass line really pays off as well.

"Solitary Man" is not as surprising of a choice as it would have been had Johnny Cash not covered it on his last album, but Bachman's version is much weirder and much better. This song is Bachman at his best: strained warble, killer banjo riff, totally fucked instrumentation. The highlight of the EP and quite honestly Crooked Fingers' best moment to date, "Solitary Man" reveals that Bachman still has some burned out circus clown left in him.

Reservoir Songs songs continues developing Crooked Fingers' sound, but comes across better than Bring On the Snakes. Like Johnny Cash's recent albums, I really like the idea of Bachman covering other songs and he shines best on the less obvious choices.

While many fans would probably be happy if Bachman floated the current Crooked Fingers sound for the rest of his career, I've got my fingers crossed that the soundtrack Bachman will release later this year on Merge will sound more like an evolved Barry Black than an instrumental Crooked Fingers. Evolving is what Bachman does best.

Reviewed by John Steinbacher
The last we heard, Steinbacher was living in Minneapolis.

See other reviews by John Steinbacher



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