August 5, 2015 Finger Eleven – Five Crooked Lines (Album Review)
Getting their start in 1989, Canadian rockers Finger Eleven have spent the past twenty-seven years building their profile and establishing a reputation of a reliably infectious unit. In 2003, their self-titled album was certified gold in the United States and went platinum in Canada. This success mostly attributed to the success of their single “One Thing” which saw the band making their US chart debut on the US Hot 100 charts at No.16. Their 2007 album, Them vs. You vs. Me, saw the release and success of the single “Paralyzer.” This album reached No.6 on the US Hot 100 chart and went multi-platinum in Canada. Now Scott Anderson (vocals), James Black (guitar), Rick Jackett (guitar) and Sean Anderson (bass) have come back to the forefront of the music scene with their first album since Life Turns Electric five years ago, Five Crooked Lines. Having already laid the groundwork with “Paralyzer” for including more funky and danceable tempos to their sound, Finger Eleven (F11) have taken that same groove and added more layers on Five Crooked Lines.
Opening with “Gods of Speed,” it comes in fast-paced and driving, yet refreshing with its uplifting sweeps and chugging rhythms. “Criminal” comes in behind it, paced and deliberate. This song has a bluesy, somber tone and tells an age-old story of wanting what is bad for you. It feels like the kind of song whose video would take place in a dive bar, but in a sensual and forbidden way. Following that is “Save Your Breath” with its gritty vocals and grungy guitars. Just as one begins to search for a reprieve from the grind, the listener is hit with an ethereal and eerie choral bridge to break up the transition back into the fray. This has an almost Doom/Stoner Rock feel with just the right amount of Sludge in the guitars. The first single the band released off this album,”Wolves and Doors,” highlights an upbeat, funky feel with a similar upswing as found in “Paralyzer.” It is danceable and catchy.
The seven minute opus “Come On Oblivion” follows, slow and intentional with its soft and simplistic opening containing a slight injection of some Synth elements. Solemn and steadfast, this song is like a transcendent journey through sound as the listener is swirled head-long into it. Like diving down the rabbit hole and spiraling towards the center, there is something uncontrollably unconventional about this song and that is what makes it stand out. “Not Going To Be Afraid” is the anthem of the underdog. Championing the efforts of those working to make their dreams come true. It has a familiar feel to it that makes it an easy song to groove to. The lesson of the day is overcoming doubt and fear as the guys are trying to reach the listener- one note at a time.
Title track “Five Crooked Lines” brings in an element that is classic Finger Eleven. The energy and effort permeate the song to give it that indefinable edge which makes it infectious and entrancing. It is easy to get lost in the waves of sounds and effects washed upon you, but in the best way possible. “Blackout Song” opens with a Weezer-reminiscent whiny, synth effect. This song is a call to good times, a feel good party song. It has a beautifully ’90s feel which summons up the feeling of a house party with friends. It is wonderfully nostalgic and compelling. The lyrics ”You’ll remember me now as the one who blacked out, but remember I had a real good time” speaks of throwing your cares away in order to seize the moment and living in the now, continuing with “Tonight, fuck everything.” The next track, “Absolute Truth,” features some great string work and a diversity of sounds. While it also has retro notes of familiarity, it is nothing revolutionary, but it is quick and efficient.
Rounding out the final section of Five Crooked Lines comes “Loss For Words” with its swampy sound featuring prominent percussion and bass. Next is “Sensory Eraser,” another ’90s sentiment with elements reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction meets Matthew Sweet mixed with a hint of Fatboy Slim. The Techno/Synth edge combined with echoic, hollow vocals and energetic fluctuating guitar make it a mixed bag of sounds and experiences. Finally, “A New Forever” closes on a more serious note. This song has a darkness and depth in its bass with fluid and whammy-ed strings paired elegantly with frontman Anderson’s trademark vocals.
As their first album in five years, Five Crooked Lines seems to allude to the convergence of the five members of Finger Eleven meeting to bring a mixed bag of distinct, eclectic new tunes and familiar-feeling, nostalgia-infused ones. Their commitment to their craft and signature sound is admirable. They have a reputation of being recognizable and infectious Alt-rockers with a penchant for catchy hooks and sing-along choruses, and this album does not disappoint. While there are a few tunes that fall a little flat and seem to only be for transition purposes, as a whole, Five Crooked Lines does deliver a variety of sentiments and tempos to keep the listener guessing and engaged with the journey. CrypticRock gives Five Crooked Lines 4 out of 5 stars.