Finger – Still in Boxes: 1990-1994

January 01, 1970

(Second Motion)


It’s hard to imagine what early ‘90s underground rock fans
thought of Finger. This kind of straightahead, no frills rock ‘n’ roll  – less informed by the Byrds, the Beatles and
Big Star than by the Faces, the New York Dolls and Hanoi Rocks – was in short
supply back then, especially to an audience for whom anything overtly flashy,
unleavened by slacker values, was akin to a sellout. Which was ludicrous on the
face of it – the songs may have been tightly crafted and the musicianship ace,
but the reckless, bash-it-out performances has more in common with Johnny
Thunders than, say, Aerosmith. If the North Carolina combo was to exist now, it
would be hailed alongside the other unreconstructed guitar bands shoved under
the banner “garage rock” Instead, the very unfashionability (some might say
timelessness) that made Finger stand out from the burgeoning alt.rock hordes
condemned it to indifference and obscurity during its existence. (The group’s
fellow Tarheels in the moodier Snatches of Pink suffered the same fate.)


That’s a shame, because Finger was more than just a minor
curiosity: it was a damn good band. Still
in Boxes: 1990-1994
makes that case quite nicely, compiling tracks
retrieved from the quartet’s lone album, singles, compilations and an
unreleased session produced by Mitch Easter. Singer/guitarists Ricky Hicks and
Brad Rice (the Accelerators, the Backsliders, Whiskeytown, Son Volt, Tift
Merritt’s and Keith Urban’s bands), drummer/singer John Howie (the Two-Dollar
Pistols) and bassist Jon Singletary (aided from time to time by other bashers,
including Superchunk’s Jon Wurster and Tommy Keene skinsman John Richardson)
had the right chemistry, smarts and drive to coalesce into more than just a
glorified bar band with future semi-famous members.


The guitars mesh like peanut butter and chocolate, the way
great six-string teams should, and the vocals harmonies hit the perfect
(extremely) ragged but right notes, like the Jacobites at their best. Fierce
rockers like “Alice,” “Vessel” and “Another State” and raw ballads (well,
almost) like “Ship Full of Holes” and “The Awful Truth” are more than just fine
examples of the roots rock-gone-blooey approach – they’re well-honed, fully
fleshed-out songs, the kind that
would be just as well strummed on a couple of acoustics as they are blasted
through Oranges and Marshalls. Finger had more to offer than being merely the
perpetual regional opening act, and Still
in Boxes
is full of tunes that hold up as well as or better than the more
popular or accepted work of their peers.


Alas, this package isn’t complete – surely the band has a
small enough catalog that it would be worth compiling everything, especially
the complete Easter sessions. And the liner notes, while heartfelt and worth
reading, don’t identify from what source the songs come. But those are
ultimately minor infractions – even with some gaps, Still in Boxes: 1990-1994 tells a rock ‘n’ roll story that’s as
compelling as the work of the masters.


Standout Tracks: “Alice,”
“Drive By,” “Vessel,” “No Solution” MICHAEL TOLAND


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