Finger Eleven | Them vs. You vs. Me (Wind-Up)

cd_finger11While there are no extreme departures from their bouncy modern rock norm, nearly every track shows hints of evolution.






Showing up on mainstream radar during the backlash against rap-rock and modern metal, Finger Eleven barely escaped commercial death. After pulling the wool over the public's collective eyes by releasing an against-their-normal-sound single, they struck gold with the soundtrack-ready "One Thing." Now they return with the deceptively titled Them vs.You vs. Me, which implies a deeper, more tumultuous lyrical struggle than most of the album's straight up rock 'n' roll conveys.

Beginning with "Paralyzer," the lead single and a mostly successful foray into dance-rock, the album instantly suggests that Finger Eleven hasn't lost its marketing savvy. Despite weak chorus lyrics ("I wanna make you move, because you're standing still"), the track, with its disco guitar, nasty beat, and appropriate club theme, is as fun as any of its radio rivals.

Though few of the other tracks veer further from the band's previous sound, the dance-rock tendencies show up in spurts throughout the rest of the album. Highlights include the falsetto on "Falling On," the addictive retro rock of "Gather and Give," and the rare introspective moment that is "Window Song." While a risk musically, "I'll Keep Your Memory Vague" creates a romantic atmosphere with a soft guitar line over subtle electronic beats. A couple of substandard spots occur mid-album, as "Lost My Way," though perhaps the most true-to-form song musically, grates with trite lyrics and a strange flute-sounding breakdown that, while interesting, would probably have been better utilized elsewhere. Its follow-up, "So-So Suicide," a rocker with nice inclusions of funk and a solid chorus, includes the repetition of an awkward, if not downright ugly guitar solo that sticks out in a bad way. Additionally, the track's subject matter loses much of the lyrical impact it could have had with a more sensitive musical arrangement.

The band seems to hit its stride during the second half of the album, where the songs tend to take on a more guitar-heavy, almost classic (or at least '90s) rock feel. With the exception of the mediocre "Change the World," which includes the telling lyric "I'm the world's biggest fan of clichés," every song is likeable at least, some even containing a certain soothing and contented quality (see: "Talking to the Walls").

Finger Eleven's experimentation keeps it from becoming stagnant, and gives this album an advantage over its peers, as well as its own back catalogue. While there are no extreme departures from their bouncy modern rock norm, nearly every track shows hints of evolution. Their ability to mix shades of funk with classic, southern, and dance rock gives them an air of unpredictability and potential. The album sometimes suffers from a lack of flow between tracks (the hard, hard, soft song order splits things up nicely, but seems lazy), and the band seems to lack focus on how it wants to be perceived, as songs teeter between artistic pondering and "rock for the fun of it" enjoyment. However, if the band continues its efforts to carve out an identity, Finger Eleven will eventually find success, not just commercially, but artistically. B+ | Aaron Brummet

RIYL: Our Lady Peace, Pearl Jam, Franz Ferdinand + modern rock

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