Crooked Fingers – Breaks In The Armor (Merge)
By Laura Witkowski
Eric Bachmann and 90s indie rock outfit Archers Of Loaf are responsible for Icky Mettle, a slice of catchy, gruff indie rock and a musical highlight of my formative years. The songs ‘Web In Front’ and ‘You And Me’ were music to my sexually-confused, overwrought-with-feeling teenage ears. With their respective refrains of “All I ever wanted was to be your spine”, and “I’ve been so down lately, you’ve been so low lately, nothing seems to work out for you and me”, I felt like Eric Bachmann was reading my indie-feelings diary. Merge reissued Icky Mettle earlier this year with a whole slew of bonus tracks, and I fell in love with it all over again (albeit from a much less sexually-confused place).
Hot on the heels of this deluxe reissue comes Breaks In The Armor, the new album by Eric Bachmann’s ‘grown-up’ band Crooked Fingers. Whereas the unbridled emotion of Archers Of Loaf was perfect fodder for a 90s indie-rock teenage riot, Crooked Fingers is music for today’s hardened hearts who’ve lived and learned life’s hard lessons. With a voice like a down-on-his-luck Neil Diamond, Bachmann takes us through 11 Americana slices of reflection and redemption. These are the kinds of songs that the lonely regular at the local bar writes in his head when the liquor gives him enough courage to open doors closed long ago.
The record opens with ‘Typhoon’, a dark mid-tempo builder in which the words “There’s a typhoon blowin’” and “We need you here” are the most frequent refrains. This theme of whether to stick it out or run away carries throughout the record. Breaks In The Armor is music best listened to on a screened in porch on a hot summer night in the middle of nowhere as the thunder rolls in the distance. The younger you who could outrun anything, would have taken off already. But the present-day you will be relieved to have these songs as company while you weigh the pros and cons of boarding up the windows and taking off for safer ground, or staying put and facing the storm. By the end of the record, you’ll know what to do. And there will be enough breaks in your armor to set even the most hardened heart free. No matter what your decision.