During his tenure fronting North Carolina's Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann made sure his group never sank too deeply into the guitar-band monotony so many indie acts are all too happy to propagate. By the Archers' last album, 1998's White Trash Heroes, he'd twisted their post-Superchunk blare into dark, noisy avant-rock knots. So despite their potency, it came as something of a disappointment that the first two albums by Bachmann's current band Crooked Fingers suggested he'd be comfortable churning out volume after volume of dank piano-bar rock about drinking too much and generally feeling miserable. Dignity and Shame, the fourth Crooked Fingers album, lifts the doubt: It's a terrific set of texturally adventurous songs about drinking too much and generally feeling miserable that finds the currently Seattle-based Bachmann's wandering spirit renewed. Many of the tunes sport fluttering Spanish guitar or bright mariachi-band horns, which gives Bachmann's depression a romantic, widescreen flair. The best tracks feature vocals by group member Lara Meyerratken: "Call to Love" is a scintillating duet between her and Bachmann; when Meyerratken calls Bachmann a "smooth-talking daddy" over exuberantly strummed electric guitars, you'll wonder which dank piano bar they've been frequenting.
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