Vinyl Vlog 210

Vinyl Vlog 210

Friday, 24 March 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the We All Want The Same Things LP by Craig Finn.

Saying that some musicians are just natural-born rock phenomena might sound unbelievable on the face of the statement, but let’s be honest – some rock singers/frontmen were built for the job and could not easily be seen doing anything else. Where else, for example, could anyone imagine seeing Jeff Tweedy or Neil Young but at stage centre in front of a rock band? Could you see Mickey Melchiondo or Aaron Freeman in some perfectly bland, cubicle-studded office setting, reader? Of course not – they are and will always be the purveyors of Boognish. Finally, where else but onstage howling like a one-man pack of wild dogs could you imagine Tom Waits, Wayne Coyne, Paul Westerberg, Brian Fallon or Mark Oliver Everett? Anywhere? Of course not – each of those men were made for the job they do; being a rock singer is part of their genetic code. With the release of We All Want The Same Things – his third solo album – Hold Steady singer/guitarist Craig Finn proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that his name belongs among that list of esteemed artists too; with the ten tracks which comprise the album, Finn ascends above his already-celebrated position as the frontman of The Hold Steady and establishes a second authoritative voice apart from any of the other projects to which he has contributed.

From the very beginning of “Jester & June” – the song which opens the A-side of the album – listeners know they’re in for something special with We All Want The Same Things. Right off, after some drums and a saxophone cook the dust off the proverbial circuits, Finn seems to begin almost freestyling a lyric (check out “Well the bartender’s friend snorted something/ It was probably coriander – fourth quarter, hail Mary, wide receiver, Hail Caesar/ The guy we’ve been waiting for come up from the catacombs, walked into the bathroom/ Put it under the trash can….”) which pulls together a multitude of stark images into a strange and vibrant mosaic that listeners don’t even realize they’ve been hooked by until Finn’s voice begins to trail off romantically/wistfully on the words, “Do you even remember.” When he finally does trail off, listeners will find themselves reaching desperately for the last vapors or for the next stanza, and that’s when the hook is set. Somewhere in that deluge is a spell and, once cast, listeners will be starry-eyed and hypnotized; they’ll follow Finn anywhere.

…And does the singer ever lead listeners on an incredible journey. Through the A-side alone, Finn hits St. Paul, Minnesota to find that, while the wind has yet to escape the city’s musical sails, it’s colder and far less homey than it once was in “Preludes.” Conversely, he manages to stretch “Ninety Bucks” into the best cheap and kind of boozy date any listener will remember having had recently before contracting all the ledes laid out back into a spoken word dramatism about a departed friend’s final legacy which was stashed among his effects. It’s a dark place on which to end the side but, as players like Paul Westerberg and Leonard Cohen have done before him, Finn manages to make that darkness ring with a resigned romance. In the end, it just feels like love still comes out on top – as dingy as the streetlights in Chicago may paint it – and the success of “God In Chicago” will be the one which has listeners ready for another trip through another side.

The emotional coloring left by “God In Chicago” continues to cast shadows throughout the songs on We All Want The Sae Things‘ B-side, but it never gets tiring because Craig Finn never lets the hope escape his voice and clearly wants desperately to believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel for both himself and for listeners. “Rescue Blues” manages to start that angle off masterfully as the singer looks lovingly at a girl suffering fro shortness of breath while simultaneously wondering if this might be the moment when “the good guy finally dies,” before walking across the street with her for one last shot before it’s finally time to get out of “Tangletown.” Throughout it all, it’ll hard for every listener to not remember a series of similar characters who traipsed through their own lives and, supported by the fairly lugubrious sonics that each of those songs is, it’s equally difficult to not begin feeling a fair amount of longing for warmer and brighter times. In part, that’s likely why “Tracking Shots” picks up the tempo picks up the tempo for about three and a half minutes; listeners will run to it with the desire to inhabit it. They’ll want to take it all into themselves before the record expires and leaves them feeling both warm and sad (which is precisely where “Be Honest” leaves them at the conclusion of the side).

Taking all ten songs into consideration after having gone front-to-back with We All Want The Same Things, it’s easy to understand how some people would call it the record of the year while others would be mystified by such affection. Some might say that no one in their right mind would want to subject themselves to the kinds of spaces to which this album takes listeners but, for the same reason listeners are given to welcoming an excursion through loneliness with Paul Westerberg or would love the chance to get drunk alone after the bar has closed with Tom Waits or just wallow in heartache with Mark Oliver Everett, they’ll come along with Craig Finn for an end times drive to the brink here, and relish in it. It’s sweet and cathartic and, at least sometimes, it feels good to know that someone else has felt this way too. That’s the fact that We All Want The Same Things has about it – that’s the one which will have listeners coming back again and again. [Bill Adams]


The We All Want The Same Things LP is out now on Partisan Records. Buy it here on Amazon.


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