Album: Crooked Fingers
Artist: Crooked Fingers
Reason Featured: #13 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Crowned in Chrome, Man Who Died of Nothing At All, Juliette
Their Grades: Pitchfork (8.4/10)
My Grade: 71%
Let’s start with the good news. The first track on here, “Crowned in Chrome,” is awesome. The delicate guitar harmonics (or is that a keyboard?), wanderlust lyrics, staccato pairings of violins and guitars all prime you for the great things to come next. The bad news is: nothing great does come next. And then you start wondering if the first song was even that good in the first place.
This self-titled debut frustrates me because it sounds like an album Eric Bachmann (who made his name fronting the very different and awesome Archers of Loaf) wanted his listeners to be able to cling on to in times of strife. But the inner tube he throws out to the drowning masses is deflated and useless. Hence all the attempts at bar-side Bukowskian pithiness which end up coming across as boring platitudes, the adoption of a Tom Waits/Jakob (not Bob) Dylan kind of grizzled voice to give these songs more “feeling,” the incorporation of emotive strings, etc. For a record which keeps returning to drink as a means for inspiration, all of its edges are straight, narrow, predictable and stiffly sober.
Besides the opener, “Juliette” stands out in its blurry storytelling about a girl burning to death on her living room floor. It’s haunting in its instrumentation and lyricism, traits which don’t join hands with many other tracks here. The bouncy cadence of “Man Who Died of Nothing At All” is intriguing enough to make it less of a slog. But, as a whole, it’s really hard to stay focused on this album. Eric Bachmann split off from one of the defining nineties indie-rock bands to record an album which sounds like Sun Kil Moon for Dummies as sung by the world’s most noncommittal Tom Waits impersonator. I can’t say I think that was a good career move.