The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Four Finger Five’s latest fails to push band over the top

Michelle Fordice | Monday, December 3, 2007

Somewhere between practicing in the garage and making it big, bands have to struggle through that in-between stage when they are not quite yet defined and only semi-popular. Some make it, many don’t. Four Finger Five is on its way up that hill, and while it looks like it has a few obstacles to overcome, it might make its way over.

Four Finger Five is made up of guitarist and vocalist Joe Sturgill, bassist Mike Phillips and percussionist Steve Harris. The band just signed its first deal, which promises three records, with Terrestrial Records this spring. Its first album, the self-titled Four Finger Five, is scheduled to be released on Dec. 11. It will be accompanied by a year long tour throughout 2008. The Michigan band has recently been featured in regional venues and on local radio stations, playing both its originals and covers. Four Finger Five concentrates on rock and soul, but have experimented with many other musical genres.

The wide range of genres Four Finger Five presents manages to become both its greatest strength and weakness. One track will have moments like those found in the music of Led Zeppelin, the next will have a strong jazz feel, the one after appeals to Al Green, and when the listener least expects it suddenly he is exposed to rap or what sounds like reggae. This is no surprise considering that between the three musicians in the band, they have been trained in everything from classical, to jazz, funk and hip-hop. Its list of covers includes artists ranging from the Beatles to Stevie Wonder and Soulive.

While it is refreshing to listen to an album with a diverse set of sounds, in the end it feels like the band is still looking for a style that is uniquely its own. There is no question that Four Finger Five can do a lot, but the listener is left wondering what it is the band really wants to do.

The extreme mixture of genres is revealed in songs such as “Rubble.” The song starts off with work from the electrical guitar that nears catchy, moves into some soulful lyrics including “the rubble is looted and the truth reconstituted,” but somehow ends with rap and a light trailing off of a bell-like keyboard. Some of the songs need a little fine tuning; there is nothing particularly wrong with “Get It Together,” but the keyboard throughout the song hearkens to the electric organs heard in baseball stadiums. “Soul Rhythm” is one of the most fun and danceable tracks, incorporating mostly jazz and soul, as Sturgill sings, “You are dancing to the rhythm of your soul / Got to free your body, let your body go.”

The album also includes contributions from veteran sax player Karl Denson and keyboardist Anthony Smith. Denson and the other brass guest musicians add a lot of depth to the jazz pieces, especially on “Johnson” where Denson shows off his skill. Overall, the songs are pleasant and something to jam to while getting work done, but not yet memorable.

Four Finger Five has a lot of potential that just hasn’t quite been realized. With so much skill and material to draw upon, the band has the ability to create something intriguing. Don’t turn your back on the Five, even if you shouldn’t expect to be overwhelmed just yet.