Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Album Review: Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes

While Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn has never shied away from the spotlight, but on his solo record, Clear Heart Full Eyes, listeners get a clearer sense of the man behind the frontman.

Finn explores the intersection of rock and roll and religion from several angles, a topic he’s no stranger to. “No Future” tells the tale of man who has replaced God with rock and roll and who is resigned to his fate. “Good old Freddie Mercury is the only guy that advises me,” Finn sings defiantly before admitting later, “The crucifixion still gets to me.”

Everything takes a 180 on the exaggerated “New Friend Jesus” which imagines life with Jesus as a band member. The song has a Nashville swing to it that matches the tongue-in-cheek tone. Finn might pull it off if it weren’t for the groan-inducing line, “People say we suck at sports, but they don’t understand. It’s hard to catch with holes right in your hands.”

Musically, Clear Heart Full Eyes is much more subdued than a typical Hold Steady record with the only real rocker being “Honolulu Blues.” The band, which includes White Denim's Josh Block on drums and Phosphorescent collaborator Ricky Johnson on steel guitar, molds itself to Finn’s delivery. This allows him to tell these stories at his own pace and makes it easy for the listener to fully absorb the words of one of the best narrative songwriters alive.

Clear Heart Full Eyes presents Finn in an honest, no-frills manor and, despite a few missteps, it’s hard not to fall in love with him again.

Craig Finn will play Local 506 on March 3.

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