WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS
Tiny Stories Full of Wonderment, Poignancy and Cracked Beauty.
Probably because I am an old man, the Hold Steady have completely passed me by so I still smile at the thoughts of previously confusing Craig Finn with Neil and Tim Finn from Crowded House…….in fairness to me; all three are very literate and thoughtful songwriters, but…..hey; it was an easy mistake for a doddery old man to make OK.
This is Craig’s third solo outing and to some degree is a lot more self-confident than the previous two albums; but still maintains the dark literacy and poetic heartbeat that they had at their core too.
Opening song Jester and June is a tightly wound up and passionate look back at something of a ‘car crash’ relationship from the narrators youth. Finn’s now trademark droll delivery is even more affecting here as the band go off into Alt territory with some punchy drums and bass and some slightly terrifying guitar licks in the background.
I said earlier that I feel that this is a ‘self-confident’ album; and I believe it is because with unconventional songs like Birds Trapped in the Airport and Preludes Finn certainly isn’t courting mainstream success; these are songs he must have had brewing for quite a while and ‘just had to record them’ and damn the consequences. They are twice as beautiful because of that attitude.
Rescue Blues and Tracking Shots are still left of centre; but more traditional in an Alt. Rock meets Randy Newman sense…….and to some degree the spirit of Randy Newman hangs all over this album. Finn’s vocal delivery not only reminds me of The Master; but the way he controls the narrative and combines words with ideas to create literate yet listenable songs, is straight out of Newman’s songwriting class 1:01.
God in Chicago is the most notable example, with Finn barely touching the piano keys as he doesn’t even allude to singing; just talking intimately to you the listener and you hand on every word scared to breath in case you miss something. Plus the fly-speck detail he includes in the story, is straight out of Hemingway….. “We had a boom box on the back street/that was running out of batteries/we played 1999 and Led Zeppelin Three/When the tape-deck got all wobberlee/she still sang harmonies.”
One song; for a variety of reasons stands out like a poppy in a what field…..It Hits When It Hits, is as far from being a traditional Love Song as the genre gets; but the way Craig Finn combines a softly hypnotic synthetic electro back beat with the saddest delivery you’ve ever heard on a song that feels like a boxer jabbing at your ribs until you have nothing left; and just have to surrender to the power of his words and spirit.
I’ve had this album for a few weeks now, and it’s been a bit of a sanitiser getting played in between tightly wrapped female singer-songwriters, Rocktastic Blues guitarists and Folk Singers who think that they have something to say; but also at the end of the day when my head is spinning and I need something that treats me like an adult; and that’s the best way to describe it Adult Music.
I’ve always had a soft spot for left-field music; Newman, Waits, Cohen etc. It ‘speaks to me’ and Craig Finn can now be added to that list; writing, singing and releasing albums like this for no other reason than because he wants to and in the knowledge it will always find a loving home someplace somewhere in the world.
Released Friday 24th March 2017