Connor Oberst’s Saddle Creek label has expanded its palate of Midwest indie and alternative country to allow for the release of inventive hard rock and pop punk by Ladyfinger (ne), and for this we should be grateful.
This is not to say that Bright Eyes and Orenda Fink haven’t had their successes, but that the evolution of music always lies with those who aren’t satisfied with having one influence and producing one style of music. Ladyfinger (ne), who can change between metal riffs and subdued pop melodies with ease, are one of those groups poking a stick at the set moulds until they morph them into something more interesting.
Dusk, the group’s second album, starts things off with a driving four to the floor drumbeat and a wall of dark guitar riffs. Over And Over blends soaring melodies with grungy guitars in a Foo Fighters or Queens Of The Stone Age sort of the way. With a concentrated mixture of singing and aggressive yelling, Chris Machmuller certainly holds the torch for Josh Homme.
A.D.D. follows up with dueling guitars – a metal riff versus a floating guitar line – and a rumbling rhythm section. Fuzz bass rarely sounds better than this. Machmuller unravels a rather uninspired narrative about a young kid in a bad family situation, but he does so with bits of humorous observations: “I realize you’re just a kid, but try and shut up / I know your daddy left / left you and your momma alone / don’t let it get you, now, it’s okay / he’s kind of a prick.” And soon afterwards, “You’re just a kid – go play in the dirt.”
So Ladyfinger (ne) have a sense of humour. Maybe it stems from the copyright issues they had to contend with in their band name, forcing them to add on an (ne), which reportedly stands for “Nebraska.” Whatever the case, despite their sometimes dark sounding (almost gothic) riffs, we know that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously, which is always a good thing.
After a couple of tough songs, Dusk starts to take a pop-punk turn with Little Things. A palm-muted riff serves as the basis of the song, with some oohs and aahs accompanying Machmuller’s gentle opening melody. Everything roils into a dirty garage rock riff, which kicks off the explosive second half of the song.
Fans of grunge, hard rock, and various types of metal will find a lot to like about these songs. Ladyfinger (ne) blend elements carefully and in such a way as to avoid kitsch. They can appropriate the grungy elements of Stone Temple Pilots in Work Party, summon the fast-paced guitar strides of Motorhead on Bones, and then dirge the deepest realms of prog rock to craft a chameleon like Plans, which heads from a bouncy march to a floating pool of guitars and onward to a very rhythmic section that recalls the mathematical precision of Rush.
With bands like this, rock will never be dead.