Ladyfinger (ne) occupy a strange locale between punk, post-punk and FM rock. Nothing truly gets sketched out, but that seems to be Ladyfinger (ne)’s objective here. In their own words, they describe pulling inspiration from early 70’s classic rock. But that label is a bit of a misnomer, because Errant Forms sounds nothing like the 1970’s. Nor does it necessarily sound like any other decade, and that is Ladyfinger (ne)’s selling point and ultimate downfall. Errant Forms cherrypicks from various rock and roll derivatives from the past twenty years, and the result is sometimes rewarding and oftentimes frustrating.
Frustrating firstly in that Ladyfinger (ne) will deploy a serious tease by initiating a track with a sonically diverse introduction only to have the song swiftly switch gears to make way for a stifling and forced opening verse. If this sounds specific, take a listen to the album’s second half. The two most devastating fake-outs are “Poison for Hire” and “Meathead,” and it’s worth noting these two stand with some of the most lyrically trite works on the album. Both intros to “Poison for Hire” and “Meathead” illustrate Ladyfinger (ne)’s greatest strengths: rhythmic complexity, frenetic guitars and a knack for building tension without giving anything away too soon. But like a left hook to the jaw, Ladyfinger (ne) cut the intro and rip into the first verse. Different tempo, different style, different everything. The sloppy editing is disappointing mostly because it highlights a possibility Ladyfinger (ne) could embrace instead of spending their time writing songs about the insecurity felt in the presence of machismo.
And that is Errant Forms’s second most frustrating aspect: the cheeky lyrics. Singer Chris Machmuller has a special habit of preaching and confessing a little too much in his lyrics. The big stinker here has to be “Galactic,” in which Machmuller outlines a possible conspiracy theory involving aliens. As a joke, it isn’t very funny. As something serious…well, it still isn’t funny.
Errant Forms shines when the instrumentation has room to breathe and expand and the rigidity of its pop structures falls away. Moments like these are few and are usually ruined by troubling lyrics, but these brief flashes of intriguing experimentation illustrate a band with the sensibility to rock but the hesitation to find a voice.
Top Tracks: “Renew,” “Birds,” “Blue Oyster,” “He Said She Said”