The cover of Craig Finn’s third solo album shows the kickback from rain-soaked traffic ahead, the way ahead blurred and potentially treacherous: an overt metaphor for these times.
‘We all want the same things’ exhorts Craig Finn on his third solo outing. Today’s geo-political shenanigans, corporate chicanery and ringed-residential rapacity continually attempt to contradict this Utopian ideal, however, it’s got to start somewhere and somehow. That somewhere is here, the somehow is now.
Ex-Hold Steady head honcho Finn has always viewed everyday life through the everyman prism, from blue collar blues and white collar woes, high school overhangs to bar room hangovers, what to do when the party’s over and everyone’s gone ‘home’? Universal ups and downs that are never more prevalent than today.
Like clear reference point Bruce Springsteen these are homilies from the cradle to the grave, the downtown tales of the uptown folk (under the ever-watchful eyes of God who unsurprisingly features prominently here particularly on the sing-spoken and elegiac ‘God in Chicago’) and vice versa. You ‘know’ these people if not by name then definitely by character.
With an anthropologist’s forensic eye Minneapolitan Finn’s vignettes are imaginative reinterpretations, recreations, and extrapolations of experiences he undergone, stories and news he read, or gleaning from the experiences of others. It all amounts to a documentarian character analysis incorporating the minutiae of the daily grind, puncturing the myth-reality of the movies. So far so grim.
The truth is to the contrary beginning with the wah-wah Peter Framptonesque guitar of ‘Jester & June’, an upbeat and head-down affair of remembered memories and shared (unrealised) dreams (like a post-millennial John Cougar Mellencamp’s ‘Jack & Diane).
There’s a jaunty, wistful and autobiographical looking back in ‘Preludes’ a retrospective annotation of leaving home and venturing forth culminating in a return filled with uncertainty about your place in the world (‘they plaster my wounds and showed me a place to get sick’).
The metaphorical-legory ‘Birds trapped in the airport’ is an electro-builder augmented by Steady-partner Tad Kubler. Melancholia permeates Rescue Blues’ a choral cri de cœur from the perspective of ‘Janie’, another face in the crowd.
If you’ve previously found Finn’s lyrical sway and distinctive delivery too abrasive and earnest (I have) then this is the album to assuage your concerns on his most accessible release to date.
Literate and cerebral, this ten-track humanifesto sets out to unite and connect via collective soul-searching, deep rendering catharsis, within/without. It succeeds. Try it yourself, you are not alone.