Author: Melissa Meunz
02/03/2009 | | | Album Review
Ladyfinger's Myspace page boasts a snippet from a review that describes the band's sound as putting your hand into a box full of feral cats that have just been thrown down the stairs. The quote explains that the experience is "simultaneously frightening and exhilarating."

There's no accounting for taste. I might like to watch someone get their arm mauled by angry cats, but I certainly don't want to be the particular person participating in this activity. Maybe that's why I don't review CDs for Who knows.

But I suppose I do know people who would like to listen to Ladyfinger. I can even relate to why they would want to do so, and it's because I spent four years in high school.

This sounds like a particularly snide way to describe Ladyfinger's Dusk, but it's not necessarily meant that way. I assume that the description above regarding cat-mauling was meant to relay a certain abrasiveness about this record, and in that sense, it's apt. But there are certain types of abrasive a band can be. In the case of punk music, it's raucous protest songs with fairly predictable song structure. In the case of blue collar, bar room rock songs, you have a certain kind of clever, burnt out wit. And with high school angst rock, you have a lot of pent up kids wearing too much black thrashing about at a live show, which is precisely what I see in my mind when I listen to Dusk.

But high schoolers fighting with cats aside, from the start of opening track "Over and Over," we know that Dusk is driven by guitar, and that this guitar is angry. Frontman Chris Machmuller's vocals are deep and rough, and most of the album's tracks have a sense of urgency. Amidst bursts of energy, Ladyfinger seems to cater directly to the adolescent crowd. With tracks like "A.D.D.," you can't help but feel like these songs would be relevant if you were still mad at your mom and dad. The lyrics empathize, "Go to school/ read your books for all of us," and "You're just a kid/ go play in the dirt." All the while, Machmuller's voice seems to implicitly acknowledge that you're more than just a kid. But this is just the kind of comfort you need when you're rebelling against authority.

Hailing from Omaha, Ladyfinger is on local label Saddle Creek, best known for co-founder Conor Oberst's band, Bright Eyes. Saddle Creek and Oberst reached fame back when Bright Eyes released Fevers and Mirrors, which is perhaps the ultimate staple for all sad, high school music snobs. With this in mind, Ladyfinger makes perfect sense. They boast a slightly tougher side of Saddle Creek, but they're releasing Dusk at the right time as a harder rock vibe spreads through indie in general with the success of bands like The Hold Steady and Les Savy Fav. Add the pissed off attitude, and the sound is fitting.

For folks in college and older, Ladyfinger works as a nostalgia trip. Dusk is a relatively short album, which feels appropriate, and likewise, the songs work best when they're not long or ambitious. However, for the tracks longer than four minutes, it's easy to stop paying attention. The shameless sadness gets a little old, and it's easy to tune out the repetitive guitar riffs.

Overall, I imagine that for most people, the review applies - you probably don't want to put your hand in this box full of feral cats. But I'm sure there is a demographic for Ladyfinger out there. Dusk is sure to make some moody high school kids looking to unleash their angst very happy - or sad, whatever.


CD / MP3