Music Reviews
Dignity and Shame

Crooked Fingers Dignity and Shame

(Merge) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

The bio posted on crookedfingers.com easily sums up Dignity and Shame, the fourth full-length installment from Eric Bachmann & Co., "Twelve powerful songs of love, lost and found, illustrated by Bachmann's heartbreaking yet newly hopeful lyrics." From the bold trumpet and decidedly Spanish mariachi guitars on the opening instrumental Islero to his trusty lap steel and sparse, captivating piano notes, Eric Bachmann and his Crooked Fingers continue to redefine a sound that simply cannot be pigeonholed. Lou Reed, Neil Diamond and a handle of scotch hitch a ride on The Partridge Family bus perhaps. Either way, Dignity and Shame is just another day in the world-weary lovelorn characters that Bachmann has so vividly brought to life for the past five years with his Crooked Fingers entourage. It's a not-so-merry band of drunks that have long adorned the Bachmann catalog, going back to the closing beer hall sing-along on the final Archers of Loaf masterpiece, 1998's White Trash Heroes.

But that newly hopeful and uplifting tone does shine throughout this time around, even if shrouded in hangovers and heartache at times, as Bachmann peaks through the shades long enough for a ray of hope to briefly shine upon his lovelorn protagonists.

Islero opens the album and eventually becomes a literally full-blown soundtrack begging for Spanish subtitles. The lap steel on You Must Build a Fire provides a stirring simplicity to complement Bachmann's lullaby approach. The first single, Call to Love, is a gorgeous, radio-friendly gem as Bachmann triumphantly plays the role of heartbroken heartbreaker, "I found a hundred different ways to say I'm not in love with you/ Or maybe more if I was sure but I'd be lying not to be your fool," then repeatedly reassures his princess that "love's a fine thing to take a chance on." Meanwhile, Sleep All Summer is a front porch rocking chair number with Bachmann inquiring, "Why won't you fall back in love with me?"

On the excellent, uptempo jam Coldways Bachmann's nasal crooning could pass for a Tom Petty demo until a grandiose Sonic Youth-style crescendo crashes in, and Andalucia would provide the soundscape for the climactic scene rolling in Bachmann's head. Another notable moment arrives on the latter half of stoner's delight Destroyer, when Bachmann stops dead in his tracks, plugs in and the bottom drops out. The piano-laden closers Wrecking Ball and Dignity and Shame fit the bill perfectly; don't forget Eric Bachmann is the man behind the Archers of Loaf cult classic Chumming the Ocean almost a decade ago (from All the Nation's Airports), still the most hauntingly romantic recollection of a shark attack as only Bachmann could provide.