Craig Finn: I Need a New War (Partisan) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Craig Finn

I Need a New War


Jun 03, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

As the frontman of The Hold Steady—the band he formed in 2003—Craig Finn has established himself as one of contemporary music's best and most interesting songwriters. That's because his lyrics, delivered in his distinctive half-sung, half-spoken drawl, are more like short stories—narratives that drop you off in the middle of a scene and absorb you immediately as either a character or an observer, or a combination of the two.

The same is true of Finn's work outside of the band. He released his first solo full-length, Clear Heart Full Eyes, in 2012, but this fourth solo album is the third part of trilogy that started with 2015's Faith in the Future and bled into 2017's We All Want the Same Things. That's not to say these albums need each other for context—it's not Lord of the Rings, after all—but the (largely gloomy, downbeat) atmosphere that pervades the three of them does join them together.

And while there is a sense of darkness beneath the hedonistic sheen of The Hold Steady's songs—the same kind of empty, angst-ridden, existential sadness found in the headaches and vomit of the morning after—here it's much more entrenched. There's the despondent, pleading loneliness of opener "Blankets," the sad-hearted vulnerable plod of "Grant at Galena," the almost-funereal, regret-filled drudgery of day-to-day life outlined in "Carmen Isn't Coming In Today," the poignant and forlorn swing of "Her With the Blues."

What's truly remarkable about these songs, much like those on the two records that preceded this one, is how their myopic focus on individual lives actually reveals a much bigger picture. Because, really, what these songs capture is the darkness of life, of America, of the cities and surroundings inhabited by the characters in the songs, of the systems in place that lead to the richest country in the world being home to some if its most broken, desperate people. There's poetry in that truth, of course, but it's a hard pill to swallow, even with songs as comforting, beautiful, and soothing as these. (

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June 4th 2019

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