Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Craig Finn

  • Clear Heart Full Eyes [Vagrant, 2012] B+
  • Faith in the Future [Partisan, 2015] A-
  • We All Want the Same Things [Partisan, 2017] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Clear Heart Full Eyes [Vagrant, 2012]
On a wittingly laid-back solo debut where the declamatory Hold Steady frontman knows he can't bring off the country vocals his best songs deserve, he nails three flat-out anyway: "Terrified Eyes" (couple destroyed by their hospital bills), "When No One's Watching" (snazzy scuzzball seeks needy women), and "Balcony" (she does with her new man what she did with her old man back when he was new). The rest tend more, how to say it, evocative. But at least they evoke specifics--Middle American dramatis personae as marginal as Wussy's. B+

Faith in the Future [Partisan, 2015]
The band life has long since seemed all too consuming for the Hold Steady frontman. So for me, the clearest keepers on his best bunch of songs this decade feature non-scenesters like the rootless salvation-seeker of "Maggie I've Been Searching for Our Son" and the 9/11 beer-drinkers on "Newmyers's Roof," or engage an ex-lover like "Sarah, Calling From a Hotel" or a lost one like "Christine." I mean, "Some nights it just seems like the same old thing" is all too perfect a way to begin one called "Going to the Show." And "Trapper Avenue" tells me he should probably lay off the low life too. A-

We All Want the Same Things [Partisan, 2017]
Finn's Americans are beyond politics. Barflies and hopheads, petty criminals unlikely to kill or maim, working stiffs with a hustle on the side, fuckups milking disability checks and insurance settlements, the musical lifers who bleed into all these categories--none of them are kids anymore, and of course, neither is Finn. My personal interest in this demographic has never been all that personal and continues to wane--I wish a few of his antiheroes had kids. But he sure can sing a sad story if you call that singing. And there's no denying the wah-wah hook of the opener, the musicality of the spoken-word "God in Chicago," the unrequited love at first sight of "It Hits When It Hits," or the secret love of "Rescue Blues." B+