Finger Eleven is a good name but it's no Rainbow Butt Monkeys, the band's original name. Under the illustrious R.B.M. banner the Toronto based group released "Letters From Chutney" in Canada. Shortly thereafter, Finger Eleven was adopted. Lead singer Scott Anderson said the name was derived from the feeling that "everything is pushing you in one direction and your instinct drives you in another. That's Finger Eleven." OK.
In '98, Rich Beddoe replaced the group's original drummer Rob Gommerman. The first Finger Eleven release "Tip" found its way into the U.S. on Wind-Up Records. Recorded in a remote cottage, "Tip" got Finger Eleven booked as an opening act for Fuel and Creed. The CD had riff driven guitars provided by James Black and Rick Jackett. The opening track "Quicksand" was notable for the hot bass line from Sean Anderson.
"The Greyest Of Blue Skies" was released in July, '00 with the blistering "Drag You Down," the heaviest song in the group's repertoire. It resulted from the frustration they were feeling in the studio. Sometimes it's just best to bash it out.
The group's self-titled sophomore effort, recorded in L.A., arrived in '03. Four years later, "Them Vs. You Vs. Me," featuring the singles, "Paralyzer" and "Falling On," dropped.
"Paralyzer" was the group's first Top 10 hit in the U.S. (#1 in Canada) and was part of the "Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit" rollercoaster experience at Universal Studios Florida. The song was also heard on the '07 NHL Awards show. Finally, the group performed "Paralyzer" during the '08 Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas.
After completing a tour opening for Kid Rock, work started on "Life Turns Electric" in early '10. The single "Living In A Dream" hit in July of that year while the album dropped in October.
1995 Letters From Chutney (as Rainbow Butt Monkeys)
2000 The Greyest Of Blue Skies
2003 Finger Eleven
2007 Them vs. You vs. Me
2010 Life Turns Electric
The lone Rainbow Butt Monkey's release "Letters From Chutney" is not very compelling nor is it representative of the group's later sound.
"Tip" with "Quicksand" and the title track, featuring Anderson's falsetto, is a strong CD. There are some differences between the Canadian and U.S. releases. "Consolation Day" morphs into the ethereal "Awake and Dreaming." There's also added instrumentation. A new vocal track and different guitar tracks appear on the U.S. version of "Thin Spirits."
"The Greyest Of Blue Skies" is denser than "Tip." The songwriting is generally better and more focused. That's not only evident on "My Carousel" or "Sick Of It All" where the group expands its reach, but also on the more melodic tracks like "Bones + Joints."
It's not that "Finger Eleven" is a bad album, on the contrary. It's that aside from "Good Times," "Conversations" and a decent ballad, "One Thing" there's not much that jumps out.
More often than not, the best songs on an album are the singles. Sometimes they are the only good songs. The persistent and driving "Paralyzer" and "Falling On" are the opening tracks on "Them Vs. You Vs. Me." The singles are placed there by design to catch a buyer's eye when they scan the album's titles and positioned on the CD to make an immediate impact. That's just smart marketing in a highly competitive and cut-throat business. Get to the point and make it stick.
While "Paralyzer" and "Falling On" are excellent tracks they are not the top of the line. That honor goes to the dreamy ballad "I'll Keep Your Memory Vague" and "Lost My Way" ("Because the stories are old, the black and white have gone grey").
Finger Eleven's Metal-Lite gets a workout on "Sense Of A Spark," "So-So Suicide" and "Gather & Give." Just to show their versatility, they manage to deliver a strong acoustic ballad, "Change The World."
Classic Rock permeates "Life Turns Electric." "Any Moment Now" is built around a catchy riff and "Whatever Doesn't Kill Me" features a brilliant chord progression that's a hook in itself. However, the best cut is the melodic yet driven "Ordinary Life." The lean, fast sound of those tracks is augmented for the muscular "Pieces Fit, a strutting "Living In A Dream" and "Don't Look Down," a grinder (in a good way) with Anderson channeling Ozzy.