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Crooked Fingers: Bad Man Coming

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Oct. 13, 2004

Crooked Fingers
w/Hymn from the Hurricane, Swiss Army
Oct. 14, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Crooked Fingers frontman Eric Bachmann is keeping the rest of his band home for the tour that brings him to Omaha Oct. 14. He wants to test drive the songs off his new CD, Dignity and Shame, one time by himself.

"It'll just be me on guitar, piano and vocals," he said from his home in Seattle, where he recently relocated. "Everything will sound a bit different, but the songs will be the same."

The solo outing is somewhat ironic when you consider that Bachmann broke his usual pattern with this new record by taking a more collaborative approach to the songwriting process.




Created out of the ashes of his former band, the legendary North Carolina jangle-punk outfit Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers has released three albums since it formed in early 2000. The band's hallmark sound is surreal acoustic balladry that mixes stark, doomsy lyrics with anthemic, uplifting melodies -- imagine Neil Diamond singing through a bullhorn backed by Tindersticks and you're getting close.

In fact, at times Bachmann's voice is a spot-on replica of Diamond's, though these tunes are romantic in a different, darker sort of way than, say, "Sweet Caroline." Still, they're no less hook-filled. Don't be surprised to find yourself singing along to some of the downright disturbing songs off the band's last full-length, 2003's Red Devil Dawn, only to realize that they're about the end of the world ("Big Darkness"), a lurking killer ("Bad Man Coming") or a twisted love, sporting lines like "Drinking sparking wine and sniffing glue / I've been looking for some soft abuse." ("Sweet Marie"). Bachmann's songs are deceivingly beautiful and somewhat frightening at the same time.

"The first three records were, in a sense, about me," he said. "It took a long time to write this new one. When I moved from Atlanta to Seattle everything kind of collapsed. I hit a bottleneck, and when I came through it I wanted to have a band that was more involved and be collaborative, more interdependent."

The new album, recorded at Seattle's Jupiter Recording Studio with producer Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan, The Minus 5, Presidents of the United States of America), features live drums, guitars and vocals and is "way more of a band thing" that his other albums.

"The lyrics are more welcoming, more open and less self-indulgent," he added. "It was a very liberating way to write."







"That song was about stuff that happened right before my quick departure, and about how, as things get bigger, I'm losing touch with my family."





"When I go to shows -- even to something I'm completely blown away by -- I just stand there and take it all in."



So liberating, in fact, that Dignity and Shame was originally slated to be a double-CD, but eventually the session's 22 songs were cut down to 12 prime cuts, slated for release on Merge Records Feb. 22. Those on hand for Bachmann's solo tour will get a sneak peak of the new material with a few Crooked Fingers classics thrown in. The tour starts in Omaha, which is fitting considering how Bachmann has worked closely with Azure Ray and Andy Lemaster (Now It's Overhead), two artists who record for Omaha's Saddle Creek Records.

And though he promises to play some oldies, don't expect to hear any Archers of Loaf classics -- that was a different band at a different time. Bachmann said he's become more easy-going about his Archers connection as Crooked Fingers has become more well-known.

"When I first started Crooked Fingers in 2000, I didn't want to live in the past," he said. "Now I've felt I've established Crooked Fingers and really love it when people recognize that the other band existed. You sort of appreciate it, because they've stuck with you even when you've tried something different."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 13, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.