Craig Finn – I Need A New War – Album Review by Killian Laher
Live with his band – The Uptown Controllers – The Sugar Club, Dublin – 20 October
Craig Finn, of the Hold Steady has just released his fourth solo album. Less introspective than 2017’s We All Want The Same Things, the opener, Blankets, has an insistent beat and generally upbeat demeanour, which at first seems at odds with Finn’s lamenting vocals. But weirdly, it’s a combination that works, in a Bruce Springsteen kind of way, even featuring a harmonica midsong. There’s an old-fashioned yet timeless feel to tracks like Indications and Something To Hope For with some almost cheesy brass, and the doo-wop influenced Magic Marker which boasts a classic line “sometimes it just feels good to write your name”. A Bathtub In The Kitchen is moodier fare, full of memories and regret, with a killer chorus. The gorgeous, gently plucked guitars of Grant at Galena, married to descriptive lyrics featuring intricate details about how he “found a bird in the backyard that flew into a wall” give the track a rich, resonant feel.
Later, Holyoke sounds almost effortless before he hits you with the devastating line “I’m sorry if I scared you, I thought that I was dying”. It’s a credit to the strength of Finn’s songwriting that this sort of broken-hearted, tear-in-my-beer thing (especially on Her With The Blues) never becomes wearing, but actually gets a little warmer and more heartfelt with each listen.
It’s very Bruce from start to finish (you could imagine the E-Street Band on closing track Anne Marie & Shane) and there’s nothing earth-shatteringly original here, but these songs feel like they just had to be written and the album just… works. Craig Finn shows that not only is he good storyteller but he’s got the tunes to go with it.
Track List –
2. Magic Marker
3. A Bathtub In The Kitchen
5. Grant at Galena
6. Something To Hope For
7. Carmen Isn’t Coming In Today
9. Her With The Blues
10. Anne Marie & Shane