Clear Heart Full Eyes
It would be difficult to write a review of Craig Finn’s debut solo record without mentioning The Hold Steady, and for that reason I won’t be attempting it. Recorded in Austin, Texas during a measly four month break from his aforementioned cohorts, the album represented an excuse for Finn to record with other musicians after writing songs which were “outside the norm” of his day-job. Although there are glaring similarities between Finn’s debut and The Hold Steady’s brassy, adrenaline fuelled pub rock shtick, this material somehow encompasses even more of a “classic rock” feel, in fact it seems custom made for a stadium tour (Finn even sings: “Good old Freddie Mercury is the only guy that advises me. This time he said if you can't beat 'em, join 'em”). This is a somewhat odd situation seeing as the band are unlikely to ever play this material outside small clubs and the odd muddy field. There’s obviously a hankering for country music in Finn’s heart too, and we get a nice dose of pedal steel on excellent tracks like “Western Pier” and “Balcony”, for the most part though the album flicks between the genres, struggling for a specific direction. There is a cost to going out on your own, and despite this album’s numerous enjoyable throwaway moments, it lacks some of the craft, melody, spine-tingling build ups and payoffs that litter The Hold Steady’s better recordings. All in all though, you could do much worse than this perfectly capable offering, it’s certainly a step up from 2010’s Heaven Is Whenever, not bad for a quick dabble in the studio.