Sooner or later there will be an acoustic-guitar toting troubadour for every man, woman and child in the known universe. Or so it would seem. Everyone will be able to beckon the modern day equivalent of their own personal court minstrel to entertain them with wistful tales of woe and wooing. For there is now a veritable carpet of strummers sprouting: Morrisons, Nutinis, Johnsons, Blunts and more besides. Before you know it there will be a national epidemic where a cull shall be proclaimed to safeguard the public’s health.
Thankfully, into a world of navel-gazing wet-holes there comes Fink (a man and his band) who serves up taut, shimmering dark acoustica that trembles with emotion that gives the blue-eyed soul of others a blackened bruise and revels in the damage.
The former sampler-turntablist Fink continues to serve up the nifty brooding guitar work reminiscent of John Martyn that made his/their debut Biscuits For Breakfast such a treat. Like a more muscular José González, this album fleshes the nuggets of understated acoustic funk thanks to the fitting production by Lamb‘s Andy Barlow.
Fink the band have evolved from a bedsit concern to a hushed and accomplished musical treasure. The soft-spoken confessionals of their debut are more accomplished this time, taken to the big city and returned home just as wounded, but more worldy-unwise than their little brothers. Witness the prowling Spanish guitar figure that underpins the seething anger tempered in Trouble’s What You’re In, threatening to burst into some nasty predictable chorus that never (thankfully) comes. The world of Fink is one where tension, pace and melody combine to create a tight web of deft beauty that bears repeated playing.
Taking in deft touches of dub, folk, blues, soul, dance elements and blues elements the sound of Fink is warm and accessible, relying on nothing more than tight playing, an up-close intimacy of heart-on-sleeve and a genuine sense of lived-in believability, oddly missing from the host of strummer pretenders.
Chiaroscuro. The artists had a word for it. The dramatic contrast between shadows and light inhabit the world of Fink. The breezy matter-of-fact reality of trying to warm your hands on the dying embers of a relationship (“the things that keep us apart keep me alive”) are shot through with (what are becoming a Fink trademark) the glitches of squeaking fret boards and the unashamedly autobiographical nature of the songwriting.
The pounding beat and tweaks of Blueberry Pancakes recount the attempt to recreate a lost lovers’ recipe and sounds like The Police (in a good way) with its cod-skanking and corkscrewed harmonies. So Many Roads and the resounding flourish of closer Little Blue Mailbox sound like spectral Jeff Buckley off-casts with their tribal dawn rhythms, sparse guitar work and tarnish of an ‘eternal life’.
Like an acoustic Massive Attack or even a less gothic Nick Cave for those dark and chilled moments, Fink as a band, or even as the man, have carved out a niche in their dark warmth which they don’t seem ready to drag into the light of pop fodder. There’s not a duff track on this record and, although there may not be hooks-a-plenty or a host of radio-friendly feel-good tracks, there is a compelling menu that offers more than most and promises still more to come.