Crooked Fingers – Breaks In The Armor (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IF YOU believe the hype, then Eric Bachmann – aka Crooked Fingers – tried hard not write this new album, his sixth under that moniker. If you believe us, then it’s a good job that he failed given that Breaks In The Armor offers a cracking set of songs from the former Archers of Loaf man.
Recorded at The Bakery in Athens, Georgia (where he now lives) with the help of Matt Yelton (live sound engineer for the Pixies), the LP offers gutsy alt-rock and more intimate bluesy standards that bear comparison with some of the very best American singer-songwriters, from Dylan to Petty right down to Vedder.
Early on, especially, things are outstanding. Opening track Typhoon hits you with a whirlwind of great guitar riffs and a moody vocal that builds to a terrific chorus. It’s just so darn good and it’s followed by the equally excellent Bad Blood, a gutsy tale of feuding that opens with the telling line: “Went to see my fortune teller.” It’s lines like that which make you want to hear the stories that Bachmann has to tell.
But the guitar work is exemplary too… and on Bad Blood, the Petty vibe really does prevail.
Things slow down to sparse and haunted for The Hatchet, in which the guitars are oh-so subtle and the lyrics full of regret and meaning (“I’m leaving my friend”… “If I loved you before, I could love you again but I’m not coming back”). It’s a sombre record and a nice change of pace.
But therein lies another of the album’s broad appeals… Bachmann’s ability to mix the tempos and keep the listener on his or her toes.
The Counterfeiter is another of the album’s highlights, with some exemplary riff-making to compliment the story concealed within the lyrics, while Black Candles has a grassroots kind of Deep South vibe that’s augmented by a really ragged set of vocals and a wonderful combination of drum beat and piano. Once the guitars kick in, too, you’ll be smitten, although the piano use is what really makes this particular track so striking.
Elsewhere, piano is back to the fore on the toe-tapping Went To The City, which has a Talking Heads vibe, while there’s a some beautiful melodies and backing female harmonies on the darker themed Your Apocalypse (complete with striking use of guitar again).
If we were being picky, then we might argue that Bachmann is at his very best when keeping things at a higher tempo. But then he’ll drop in a doozy of slower number, too, such as the show-stopping War Horse.
But in truth, this particular Crooked Fingers album doesn’t do much wrong. She Tows The Line is under-scored by a brilliant piano bass-line and a ragged set of vocals that compliment it perfectly, and Our New Favourite rounds things off in dusky, low-key, beautifully under-stated fashion (complete with a Vedder-like vocal).
So, if you’re looking for an end-of-year contender for one of the best albums of the year, and a break from some of the more obvious chart-toppers, greatest hits compendiums and Christmas themed records, then this is tailor-made for you. It’s got instant classic written all over it.
Download picks: Typhoon, Bad Blood, The Counterfeiter, Black Candles, Your Apocalypse, War Horse