The corresponding press release that accompanies Heavy Hands explicitly tells us the buzz words that are supposed to be associated with the album: rabid, feral, squealing, pounding, etc. And if you listen hard enough, and you believe hard enough, you can almost imagine them to be true. This is to say, Ladyfinger (ne) tries exceedingly hard to be the visceral band of the working class and a shot through the doldrums of rock and roll, but doesn’t quite get there. The effort and the belief are there, but the passion is either not quite there, or doesn’t get through in sufficient quantities.
Ladyfinger (ne) comes out of the midwest, the vibrant music scene that is Omaha, Nebraska. They combine that scene, the “indie-ness” of their label Saddle Creek, with a full on embrace of elements of classic rock and heavy metal, two genres that indie has left behind. What comes out is a sound of disillusion, music full of loud noises and righteous anger. The (ne) at the end of the band’s name, ostensibly added for the same reason that Blink 182 added “182”, acts almost like a caveat. “Ladyfinger” suggests sinuous beauty, the soft prettiness of the indie genre. The “(ne)”, for Nebraska, suggests this is beautiful, but in a way that you never expected, the Nebraska way.
The album begins with “Smuggler”; the opening sounds are of a churning guitar, a thudding backbeat, and military-style chanting. Then the chorus hits and the lead singer starts shouting anxiety-filled words in earnest, and Ladyfinger (ne) have set out their manifesto. The song fades into the next, “Who Believes Enough?”, which has almost exactly the same structure. Bands are often criticized for creating songs that sound exactly the same: the Ramones and the Strokes are just a few examples. Ladyfinger (ne) is another such a band, yet this is not an indictment. Rather it seems more like evidence of their focus, of their drive, of their willingness to push their message to the limit. Other highlights include “Don’t Lose Your Shadow”, which is two minutes of controlled rage, with brooding verses that pile onto fiery choruses. “...Man, Woman…” is a similar animal, full of confusion and hazy rage at something undefined.
This is sound and fury signifying something, but the sound does not quite match up to the purported fury. The music stands up on a large platform and demands to be heard. As a listener you hear it, but you get the feeling that you just don’t quite feel the passion it wants you to have.