Incorporating The Music Fix
23rd January 2012 10:00:00
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Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes

Finding himself with some downtime from his normal frenetic schedule, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn made a conscious effort to write and record songs that didn’t quite fit into the raucous bar room stomps for which his band are renowned. The result is the surprisingly affecting Clear Heart Full Eyes, an album infused with many different styles and one which actually makes you think Finn may have found God!

‘Apollo Bay’ kicks things off with the slightly disconcerting sound of Finn’s distinctive drawl pitched over over a backing of dirty, downbeat blues. The pace picks up slightly with ‘When No One’s Watching’ before ‘No Future’ delivers a song that name drops Johnny Rotten and Freddie Mercury and is the closet he gets to his day job. A mention of the Devil is the first sign of the religious themes running through the rest of the album and as the jaunty, country hoedown of ‘New Friend Jesus’ follows, you start pondering whether Finn has found a new spiritual bent - a feeling that is only enhanced by ‘Western Pier’, a downbeat, slide guitar-led hymn where Jesus presides as the kind and forgiving Judge to the difficulties of life and love.

As the maudlin, violin-heavy ‘Not Much Left Of Us’ closes proceedings you are left with a fragile, introspective and deeply spiritual album that, unlike a lot of overtly Christian rock music, does not feel forced or too in-your-face. In fact, it sounds like the thoughts of man moving on with his life and, as with a lot of people when they get older, pondering the existence and benefits of embracing a more religious outlook on life. So has Craig Finn really found God? That I don’t know, but he has sure delivered an album that maintains his status as storyteller par excellence; one that would be equally welcome in the bar or the chapel. Can I hear an 'Amen'?

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The Hold Steady - Stay Positive + Heaven is Whenever [2010]
Track List
1. Apollo Bay
2. When No One’s Watching
3. No Future
4. New Friend Jesus
5. Jackson
6. Terrified Eyes
7. Western Pier
8. Honolulu Blues
9. Rented Room
10. Balcony
11. Not Much Left Of Us
-- more --
About Greg Belton
Despite being a seasoned gig goer for more years than I care to remember, I’m a fairly recent convert to writing about music. My tastes have undergone seismic shifts over the years and now take in punk, indie, goth, metal, Americana and anything else with a nice tune. A not too secret penchant for the work of Nick Cave will probably be reflected in the amount of his music I own. All plaudits greatly welcome - all criticism can be filed directly in the bin.