Crooked Fingers

Thursday, Feb. 22; Rocket Bar.

Eric Bachmann is nothing if not prolific. While leading indie-rock guitar heroes Archers of Loaf for most of the '90s, he still found time for two solo outings of weird cut-and-paste drum-loop rock under the name Barry Black, and when an injury sidelined one of his bandmates during the waning days of the Archers, he took the opportunity to explore some quieter song styles as a contrast to his full-time band's skronk. The Archers of Loaf broke up for good a few years back, and Bachmann, now operating as part of the Crooked Fingers, has been pursuing a quieter presence ever since. When the frontman of an acclaimed rock band steps out on his own, there's always the fear that the new project is, well, going to suck, especially if that new project is "pursuing a quieter presence." Fortunately for worried fans, unlike the post-Squirrel Bait Pete Searcy or post-Styx Dennis DeYoung, the Crooked Fingers most assuredly do not suck.

If you were to listen to the first Archers of Loaf record and the second Crooked Fingers record, Bring on the Snakes (WARM) back to back, you'd be forgiven for being surprised that the same guy brought us both, but when seen as a gradual progression, it makes a certain sense. Although the Fingers album is much less raucous, it features the chiming harmonics and odd chord juxtapositions that were an Archers of Loaf trademark, and much of the percussion is drum loop and sound sculpture, similar to the Barry Black experience. Something surprising, though, is that Bachmann's voice, after the strangled screaming that was an Archers of Loaf strong point, actually seems to have mellowed more than the music. Perhaps it's that Bachmann doesn't have to try to be heard through crappy PAs over amps set on 10 anymore, but, swear to Superchunk, there are a couple times on the album when he sounds like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. With any luck, after a few months on tour (the first major Crooked Fingers tour with a full band, apparently), Bachmann's voice will have gotten back some of that beautiful rawness. If not, tell the soundman at the Rocket Bar to keep turning Bachmann down until he has to yell, or maybe just buy him a couple of shots of whiskey. Whatever you do, though, don't keep yelling for Archers of Loaf songs all night. That would just be lame.