We’re all in it together as Hold Steady man goes it alone for a third time
As well as being in one of the most original – and best – bands who are making music right now, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn has a parallel career as a solo artist.
“We All Want The Same Things” is his third, and it is perhaps worth saying at the outset that it is his best. For all the proof you need of that, Exhibit A is “God In Chicago”, the title of the album comes from a line in the track and it feels like the most pivotal and special here.
Spoken word – give or take its chorus – it is almost poetic and its imagery and character building is incredible. There has always been an element of this in Finn’s work, of course. No-one writes lyrics quite like him and no one delivers them quite like he does, but the more understated vibe here allows him to really explore.
The usual rock n roll punkish elements of HS are eschewed largely in favour of something a touch more laid back. “Rescue Blues” for example is a tale of love, but with saxophones and harmony aplenty.
Indeed, the horn work of Stuart Bogie is central throughout. But never in an overpowering way. It appears as early as opener “Jester And June” – which also sees Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler in fine form.
Another of the cornerstones of the record, you imagine, is “Preludes”, which Finn reckons is what life was like in 1994 when he returned from University, whereas that might be autobiographical, much of the record is just magnificent storytelling.
“Ninety Bucks” is almost perfect pop music, “Birds Trapped In The Airport” seems to hide a deep, overwhelming sadness, while “Tangletown” has the kind of vibe that Springsteen found on “Magic” and is one of many to benefit from some wonderful use of the vocal skills of Annie Nero, who along with Rainer Maria singer Caithlin De Marrais, really counterbalance Finn’s tones superbly.
“It Hits When It Hits” is the record at its most stripped down, but interestingly, its follow up “Tracking Shots” is perhaps closest to what we might call the “day job”. Largely though, the slightly off-kilter soul stylings of “Be Honest” which closes the album, are closer to the overall feel of “We All Want The Same Thing”.
There are many different feelings and emotions across the 10 tracks here, but the overriding feeling is one of this being unmistakably a Craig Finn record, but one which doesn’t sound quite like anything else he’s done. A remarkably vivid collection, it is a tour-de force of lyricism.