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  Red Devil Dawn  
  Crooked Fingers  
Release Date:
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I am in the process of going through all of the stuff that I’ve been listening to this year and composing my traditional End of Year compilation. In so doing, I am running across a lot of music that has been integral and often omnipresent to my listening in 2003, but that didn’t get reviewed for one reason or another. These are three albums that fall into that category. I think the reason they never got reviewed is that, while I adore all three groups, and while I listened to all three steadily from point of release until now, none of them are really anything new or different from what the bands have done before, respectively.

It might make sense to read the reviews in the order I wrote them. Or not. Whatever.

  1. Electric Version by The New Pornographers
  2. Naturaliste by The Lucksmiths
  3. Red Devil Dawn by Crooked Fingers
Brendan's Disclaimer:
  Malimus, bless his heart, submitted this series of reviews in one document. That's all good and well, but i can't cram three albums worth of header information into that little space you see above. Therefore, i have broken this into three reviews, each on their own page. There is a fair amount of redundancy, but each review is designed to stand on it's own as well.  

In the previous two reviews i started off with an "album substitution rule". That rule applies less to Red Devil Dawn with regards to Bring on the Snakes.

Crooked Fingers introduces a few noticeably new elements into their mix, this time around, upping the ante a little with a few carnival sounds here and there. The result is a slightly lighter, less grim feel than their earlier releases. Less clinically depressed, life-long alcoholic malaise; more “I’m don’t need therapy or psychotropic meds, but I still think life is ugly and mean.” But with that said, it’s not like you’re going to pop the disc in and exclaim with shocked awe, “This is Eric Bachmann? Where the hell did he get this from?” It is not, in short, anything remotely like the change from Archers of Loaf to Crooked Fingers, and a basic test of whether or not you’re going to like the album is “did you like the first two?”

This album, like the others i am comparing it to, is slightly disappointing precisely because of it's predictability. Red Devil Dawn gets a few extra bonus points for aforementioned formula tweaks.

But on a level aside from formulaity, one probably needs to ask, why would bands who have already “found themselves” so to speak, and who all have rabid fan bases who support them, make changes to their sounds midstream? Simply to prove they can? That borders perilously close to beat-the-crap-out-of-the-pretentious-kid for my tastes. To make sure critics say gushy things about their “willingness to improvise and push their own boundaries?” Fuck critics. Most of us are on the wrong side of that same border anyway. Experimentation and expansion of palette is all fine and good, and I’d hate to live in a world where no one kept pop music alive and fluid by injections of the new, but they are not ends of themselves. Many fine musicians have churned out complete dreck in the attempt to prove themselves more than “just a pop star,” to the general detriment of the rest of us.

The point, I guess, is sometimes, you just want a freakin’ cheeseburger. Yes, it’s great to drop by the hole-in-the-wall Malaysian place for some piping hot pad thai, but you’d be rather sad if Zesto’s replaced good old number two with anything involving rice noodles. To me, all three of these bands are basically cheeseburgers, and while I can understand where some people might ask, “why can’t they add spicy mustard for a change,” I am personally fond of your basic yellow mustard in a squeezy-tipped bottle.

I believe my metaphor has run away from me. I’ll sum up with the big sponge assignment as pay off.

Red Devil Dawn is a Crooked Fingers CD. Much like Weezer, you really should know what that entails by now. (If you don’t, then you’ve avoided the previous Crooked Fingers releases, and should probably do the same with this one. Unless you just didn’t know about them; then you should go get a CF disk, quite possibly this one, and give them a try.) This album takes the Crooked Fingers vibe and lightens it up a bit, and I appreciate that. I give it five sponges, with the caveats from above for previous tastes. It’s a bacon cheeseburger served at 4AM, built to soak up the leftover gut-rot you’ve been swilling all night long.

Related Links:

A two-Minion point-counterpoint review of Crooked Fingers, the debut album.
Bring On The Snakes, the second Crooked Fingers album.
Reservoir Songs, a recent EP of cover songs done by Crooked Fingers


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