Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tricky Fingers

From Big Notebook for Easy Piano

If a pianist were to describe the sound of a car wreck or a person falling into deep water in the most consonant way possible, the opening lick to “Tricky Fingers” would be how I’d imagine it would sound (though I’m definitely not a pianist). And with the jarring urgency of a car accident, Seth Timbs baptized us all into the world of Fluid Ounces with this being the first song that he actually wrote for the project.

True, “Sick” and “Record Stack” are older songs, written and played for Ella Minopy, the fore-runner to Fluid Ounces, but they are songs arranged on guitar. Seth had developed some great chops over the years, but it seems he tried to keep the piano equal with the guitar in arranging everything for his songwriting ventures before Fluid Ounces. But with “Tricky Fingers,” it’s like we’re being smacked in the face with the piano, as if Seth is telling the world, “We’re a piano band, dammit!”

Seth has maintained an amazing consistency in the tone of his voice since recording the band’s second album. Anytime I see them live now, I could swear he could go right back into the studio and re-record the vocals to all of In the New Old Fashioned Way exactly the same as the first time. But what amazed me when Seth and Brian Rogers broke this song out in their “Half Ounce” duo set in January 6th, 2007 (presented below for download, though performed sans the record's classic intro), was how easily Seth could turn on the exact same tone to sing this song very close to the way he did when Big Notebook was recorded. He was just a kid back then, and he sang it like a kid. If you compare it to the three Ella Minopy mp3s that have surfaced, or if you’re lucky (or un-lucky?) enough to hear the Seth Timbs and the Mad Hatters demos from ’91-’93, you’ll find that “Tricky Fingers” is a bridge between vocal stylings of the past and the piano-based future that would define the sound for his next ten years of song writing.

The other standard established here that is a hallmark of Fluid Ounces’ music is the idea of the up-beat song that does not necessarily reflect happy subject matter. Exclaiming that, “Life is such a permanent gyp!” and pointing out that, “Everybody seems to be too drunk, so everybody stays…” could never have been said with more excitement in such a seemingly feel-good song. And even though Seth goes as far in the upbeat direction to sing, “If you’re happy and you know it/ it just gets better from here,” it almost feels like a death sentence in light of the rest of the song.

On the other hand, stating that, “It just gets better from here,” also serves as a great jumping-off point for a great band and so many great songs that would follow this one.

Download Live mp3--courtesy of Fluid Ounces! (but recorded by yours truly)


Tom Foolery said...

I've always thought that the lyric was "Everybody seems to be too drunk..." However, I'm terrible at discerning lyrics. I'm also terrible at interpretting them, which is why I don't have the slightest clue what this song is about. I just got finished listening to it... and I've still got nothing.

I will point out that that this song contains the line "Soon every weekend with the Christians in potato salad daze...", which is the first allusion to religion. There will be several other such religious references on this record. It's often made me wonder if the songs were written during a time in Seth's life when he was growing out of his childhood church-going experience.

Juan Horsetown said...

You're right on the lyrics. I'll change that.

As for the religious reference, I would be curious to know why most of them are stacked up in this record. But we'll discuss that later...

Soymilk Revolution said...

great song, and i love the disjointed, fucked-up little piano lines seth sprinkles throughout. tried to play it for my mom once, she complained that it was giving her a headache...:P

oh, and i had no clue "sick" was an ella minopy song. that's one of my favorite ounces recordings.

Kerriffic said...

Tricky Fingers is the first song that really jumps out at you when you start listening to Big Notebook. Yes, it is the second song, but Shamrock acts as the opener and Tricky Fingers comes out and says "Ok, lets rock now". The lryics are twisted which I feel was very common during that period. There is an interview with Matt Mahaffey where he said said Seth Timbs was great at writing happy-dark songs. He also claimed he learned to write "dark songs" from Seth This song could catagorize as "dark." The fractured piano lines are priceless and memorable. The opening kinda hits you in the head like a big bang. jsut lke what Peach said, it smacks you by sayng "this is who we are!" love it. i was shocked when they pulled this one out at the Half-Ounce show back in January. Peach and I looked at each other with astonishment. My homie Ceeze even said he never though he would ever hear that song live. I also love the line "they pull the levers of the big brain/gotta get your shit straight"

tha b said...

this song was to the ounces what so low was to sElf... both at the same time... first 'real' songs for both bands. (i think)

I have a couple old performances of this one too... i'll upload to youtube for consumption.

also, JH, I can host those mp3s for you if you like... at

Purchase Fluid Ounces mp3s Directly from the Band!