Red Devil Dawn was the third Crooked Fingers album inside of four years, and in hindsight-at 15 years old, it's a god damn teenager now-it feels like both the pinnacle and the end of Crooked Fingers Phase One. Bachmann had perfected the art of darkness, of finding his characters and stories in solitude and then adding or subtracting sounds and players to make them come alive. But the album-being issued on vinyl for the first time ever, and with some killer bonus demos digitally-also nudges open the door to where Bachmann would take Crooked Fingers next. "Sweet Marie" adds jaunty horns to a withering-but-somehow-sweet story about infidelity, and also manages to include the line "I swear I’m gonna set that pussy bastard straight." And elsewhere, there's more hope in the darkness than ever, though it can be hard to recognize at first. But at the end of "Disappear," he sums up both Crooked Fingers' past and its future: "There’s beauty in an ugly thing, redemption in demise." That’s Red Devil Dawn writ small and simple: It finds the specks of light in the darkest rooms, and spins the whole picture into a gorgeous whole.
On February 5, 2016, Merge will reissue the self-titled debut album by Crooked Fingers, the solo project of Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann. Originally released in 2000, Crooked Fingers - a.k.a. "the one with the swan on it" - will be pressed on vinyl for the first time and include a download of the entire record plus nine bonus tracks of demos and rarities.
To mark the occasion of the reissue, we asked Josh Modell of The A.V. Club to write new liner notes for the album. Here is an excerpt:
Not long after he recorded this debut, Eric told me that he wanted Crooked Fingers to constantly evolve - that every record would sound different, and every tour would feature different players and new arrangements. He's kept to that, releasing albums that constantly tug and question, restless but preternaturally consistent. What you're holding represents the first step, a big, quiet leap into the unknown - which ended up being a beautiful place.