Ignore One Thing; most fans do. Finger Eleven has been a favourite of mine since 1998, although unbeknownst to me, I’d been a fan since 1995 or so, adoring the song Circles from their first incarnation, Rainbow Butt Monkeys.
The Finger fandom is much like that of Tori Amos: the die-hards insist that nothing since the F11 debut disc Tip has lived up to their expectations. They mock fans who’ve come in on later, more ‘mainstream’ albums. They cringe if the band achieves any success on the radio. They also brag about how many times they’ve seen the band live. Sound familiar?
Me, I’ve always appreciated that, as with Tori, the Finger five a) are very appreciative and accessible to fans and b) try something new each time. Even if there are flops along the way (One Thing) and poor choices (Unspoken should have been on the album in its place; James’ Rocketman hair-do; the bullshit with the Canadian street team), I still give them credit. I still cheer them on.
When Paralyzer, the lead single off Them Vs You Vs Me, leaked, you could say I was conflicted. On one hand, I found the song catchy as hell; on the other, it was not a ‘finger eleven’ song, and featured the first use of a cuss word lyrically – and it was used poorly. After repeated listening, I have to confess it’s become addictive; I simply ignore the troublesome lyric through mental mojo. The song felt like a throwback to the RBM era, something I’ve longed for the band to do. Letters From Chutney is a fun, thrashy album well worth the listen.
So, the preamble established, as usual, the Finger Five have put out new material within close proximity to Ms. Amos, making my year of course. And I have had the chance to spin the entire disc through the wonders of technology… meaning, of course, a review post!
Them Vs You Vs Me (Wind-Up/Sony; release March 6th)
Paralyzer: My one grievance remaining with this song is the horrific use of the word ‘shitty’. Seriously, Scott; you’ve never sworn in a lyric before. Why start so horribly? WHY? This song is fun, catchy, dance-able in that fantastic Good Times way. But seriously, what made you think this sounded good: “But so far, has not been good/It’s been shitty/And I feel awkward as I should…” :p The chorus is highly redeeming, so I’ll forgive you. This time. Sonically, this feels like Stay In Shadow meets As Far As I Can Spit; lyrically, it feels like Scott saying, “James Blunt, quit your fucking whining and write a COOL pining song”. Rating: 8.5/10
Falling On: More traditional F11 melodies on this one. Unlike Paralyzer, I can instantly hear trademark riffs and hooks established by the band. This feels sonically and lyrically like Other Light part two, which isn’t a bad thing; I quite like Other Light. I think this one will become a staple in the rotation over time, if only for the delicious riffs punctuating the shifts between chorus and verses. Rating: 8/10
I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague: Oh my. Acoustic intro=instapantiescreamed. This is going to be this album’s Thousand Mile Wish or Broken Words. WOW. Now this song proves why One Thing is ignored and stabbed. Lyrically, it’s making me swoon. Oh yes. YES. YES. Thank you. A lovely little heartbreak ditty. Rating: 9.5/10.
Lost My Way: Glitter! The word glitter! (Sorry; one of my fave songs is Famous, which has a line involving glitter). This feels kinda paint-by-numbers F11 though; it’s good, but it’s… how can I say it? Predictable? However, the breakdown at the end just caught me entirely off-guard, so that redeems it a bit. In fact, they needed more of that throughout the song. Rating: 7/10
So-So Suicide: Okay, first of all, the title is cracking me the fuck up. The intro feels very As Far As I Can Spit/Scrumpy. Hooray! Actually, the entire song, lyrically and sonically, is a complete RBM throwback. HELL YEAH! If Scott were a manic depressive writing in different phases of his mood disorder, Therapy (from the s/t) album would be the depressed half talking, and this would be his manic side writing. Very fun to listen to. Oh m. Paralyzer, move over; I think this song is going to win catchy track of the album. There is this wonderful guitar bit (and I know it’s James, not Rick) that approaches a sound nearing a bluesy harmonica. NICE. Rating: 9.5/10
Window Song: Slow, One Thing-esque number. Only the lyrics aren’t as shitty as One Thing, thankfully. The mix isn’t so great, either; Scott’s soft vocals are beautiful, but they need to be brought up. Come to think of it, this is One Thing part 2, lyrically in a thematic sense. If One Thing is a whiny fourth grader pining over Suzie Classmate, this is emo grade eight boy lusting over Suzie Classmate. I want to like it sonically, but lyrically, it’s not spectacular. Rating: 6.5/10
Sense of a Spark: Tori has Spark… and now my other favourite band uses that word. The intro is really intriguing; it doesn’t sound like any other F11 song, which is a big bonus. In Scott fashion, he’s recycling phrases again; “I told myself not to stay in the shadow” feels so much like the song Stay In Shadow. This song’s story, however, feels like Scott’s regretting staying in said shadow on the last album. Hmm. I think this needs to grow on me, but it has promise. Rating: 7/10.
Talking To The Walls: This reeks of mainstream alt rock. I happen to like a lot of mainstream alt rock, but I expect better from my boys. Add in the neverending use of the imagery of being broken, and well, like Lost My Way, we start to feel paint-by-numbers. However, the bridge has nice bg-vox, and the lyrics aren’t terrible. This song feels a lot like Window Song lyrically, though, which suggests to me they should have gone with one or the other. Naughty naughty. Hey guys, if you were looking for filler, how about a studio cut of Unspoken???!!! Rating: 7/10
Change The World: Scott, you’re in your 30’s. You can’t sing the world girl anymore in reference to your babes. K? Scott is being a complete sap in this song. Someone’s head over heels. Or he was at the time of writing. But he sings it so pretty, the fangirl in me wants to be all groupie and toss my panties on stage. Even if he grew his hair back (Scott, baby, it’s brave but your hairline is receding like my uncles’ and the shaved look was ZOMFG SO HOT regardless because, as we know, all male volunatrily bald singers are sexy as hell – please see Maynard, Billy Corgan, and oh YOU.). Okay, the song, the song… It’s uplifting. It has that Therapy vibe – ‘Cancelled my therapy cuz/I just thought of you, and now I feel fine’. It’ll grow on me, no doubt. It’ll become like Stay In Drown, where Scott will sing, and my answer will be, “I am so yours *drool*”. Rating: 8/10 (guiltily)
Gather & Give: This song is TOO acoustic. This song says to me, “T., please tell these fuckers to turn down the acoustic guitar and crank the electric NOW.” What a shame. It’s catchy, but it’s too plain. The lyrics aren’t stellar, so the lyrics and music combined make for a very plain song. B-side fodder, really. Rating: 6/10
Them Vs You Vs Me: Now, see Scott? The use of ‘fucking’ works here. It isn’t weak or lame. Actually, this song is one of the stronger ones on the disc, and the haunting acoustic guitar work adds an element of ominous that enhances the story. Something tells me this is the song that the mainstream One Thing-loving fans will ignore for Window Song, which is a shame, because this is brilliant in its simplicity. It almost feels like ‘what happens after he gets the girl from Paralyzer?’ Rating: 8.5/10
Easy Life: Ahh, rock. Much better. This has a very classic rock feel to the opening. A strange bastard child of Pink Floyd and The Eagles is at play here. I like it. I really like it. This feels like OLD F11… Almost an acoustic Glimpse/Thin Spirits vibe… Big ol’ thumbs up. Rating: 9/10
This is definitely a new direction for the band, and strangely, a re-visiting of old, old ground. A solid enough disc, but I’d probably say it suffers from the same weaknesses of the last disc. No wonder, since they elected to work with the same producer, Johnny K (Disturbed has also used him). My advice to the band: ditch Johnny, produce the next one yourselves, and continue to experiment. Even if I don’t like it all, I’ll come along for the ride, because you always make it worth the trip, one way or another. Oh, and please play more with the vibes on So-So Suicide and Easy Life. Love, me, the girl who has arthritis from a pit injury at one of your shows. And a tattoo of the TGOBS marionette. Yeah, I’m diehard.