Reviews

Ladyfinger - Errant Forms

Author: Rob Hollamby
02/13/2013 | The 405 | www.thefourohfive.com | Album Review
Let's get sensible for a minute.

There's this record label based in Omaha, Nebraska you've probably heard of. The one that's put out stuff by the 'Eyes, the 'Sive, the 'Kiley, a whole bunch of wonderful acts like Now It's Overhead, Sorry About Dresden, Criteria, Lullaby for the Worki…yeah, sorry, I was just so into the idea of Saddle Creek when I was a teenager, which has developed into a well-rounded and warm enjoyment of the label's output as an adult. And this contributes to the fact that on paper, Omaha's Ladyfinger sound like a bloody fantastic proposition. See also: Dusk, their last record, which got a 'good job, buddy' from Pitchfork. This should count for something, coming from a site not renowned for praising meat-and-potatoes rock music. As with Dusk Ladyfinger have recorded follow-up Errant Forms with Matt Bayles, a man whose studio CV would be silly to list, but in short: he's good with guitars. Look on the Ladyfinger Myspace, and you'll see drummer Pat Oakes shotgunning beers with Desaparecidos bassist Landon Hedges. Being sensible (as we are), all of these things scream "come into my life, Ladyfinger of Nebraska, and bring Errant Forms with you! I'll listen on headphones and drink on my own and we'll generally have a rad-as-fuck time together! YES!"

As a kid, I can remember seeing this twenty-second section of a Simpsons episode and being confused. I am an English boy. To me, the badger is wise and benevolent (Wind in the Willows, Farthing Wood, that lot), grumpy perhaps, but never vicious. And so to the Foo Fighters. On Blighty's damp shores they are a band beloved by the casual listener, a staple of daytime radio, favourite of teenage RHCP fans and my best mate's mum. They have definitely not been very good since album number two. In the US, however, Smilin' Dave and co. are an artistic force to be reckoned with &emdash; check out the roster of a label like Run For Cover, or last year's inexplicably lauded Everything You Ever Loved by Make Do and Mend, a band once crafted of gravel and Chuck Ragan's sweat. I reckon that Ladyfinger probably still like Foo Fighters too, from the sounds of the choruses on 'Birds' or 'Away Too Long', heaps of rolling distortion and screwed-shut eyes and 'whoah whoah whoah's. It's a description that could also easily be applied to Japandroids, but not for Ladyfinger the myriad piffling joys of young adulthood, oh no; they've bigger things on their minds.

And where better to look for these than in first single 'Dark Horse', a crunchy power ballad that details singer Chris Machmuller's reluctant but accepting passage into the world of responsibility. Again, this could be any number of Japandroids songs, but 'Dark Horse' doesn't quite manage a touching vignette of a flawed and vulnerable character, it just gives us someone who self-identifies as a dark horse, all over something like a Band of Horses (yup) cast-off rendered in digital overdrive. 'Poison for Hire' is the first incidence of post-hardcore's whiplash rhythms on Errant Forms, which makes a nice change from the rest of the album's straightforward rhythmic bashing, but the lyrics are entry-level indie-rock dogoodery, descriptively knocking "big business, power (and) greed" in haughty spoken tones without any sort of analytical ballast. Conversely, 'Meathead' sees Machmuller in the wornout Nikes of a Creatine-guzzling gym-monkey. "Bad luck for those nerds," he sings, "we'll beat 'em up." We all hate those fuckers, mate. But it didn't work for Bush in 1994, and it ain't working any better for you now. As it goes, opener 'Renew' is pretty nice, a cowboy gallop overlaid with tinkling keys and a gratifyingly widdly lead line that eventually turns into a solid approximation of epic. 'Galactic' is completely ridiculous and all the better for it, Machmuller babbling the syntactical nightmare "I'm a space invader and I think I can save this planet from these galactic destroyers from space" while Bayles turns the dial marked 'Dave Wyndorf' up as far as it'll go, but at least it's fun. Y'know, fun like watching your older brother's on-again off-again band play that one song they wrote that one time in your parents' basement after getting preposterously blazed and demolishing your hidden supply of Marylands, but still, fun.

"I don't understand what it is that you call rock'n'roll," sings Machmuller on 'Hole In My Sole', toward the back end of Errant Forms. By this point, it's not difficult to understand what Ladyfinger call rock'n'roll. It's a serious business, alright, clenched fists and throbbing temples and sweat and hard work and morals and setbacks and triumphs and traumas. I'm also pretty sure that for all its good intentions, Errant Forms isn't even the slightest bit as cathartic to listen to as it probably was to write. Teach me to be sensible.

Rating: 5/10