The Hold Steady have had a productive career with five albums (the last in 2010) since their inception in 2003, each giving the band more and more popularity. I must admit, I’ve checked out The Hold Steady a few times before, a song here and there, but never a full album as it didn’t seem to grab me. So the debut solo album from Craig Finn, The Hold Steady‘s front man, has a lot to do if it is to impress me.
Firstly I want to make the point that I think solo projects are vastly pointless, not unless you have something vastly different or new to say from your usual project, otherwise you just end up doing a Conor Oberst (writing a solo album when ultimately, Bright Eyes is his voice anyway). When done right though, you can end up with something like Frank Turner (because going from a band like Million Dead to a solo project like he has was a touch of genius really).
To me, ‘Clear Heart Full Eyes‘ is a pointless record. It doesn’t say anything that I haven’t heard from The Hold Steady. It’s less immediate than The Hold Steady, it has its feet in some alt-country sand, but aside from that it feels like ground already tread and I don’t even mean that in a good way. Lyrically, Finn is clearly in a story telling mood but he’s hardly Bob Dylan, and because of this, none of this album has any hooks, lyrically or musically for the listener to bite into. Half the time it sounds like Bruce Springsteen drinking whisky and chewing on some straw after maybe a big night out with too much debauchery. Maybe that’s what Craig Finn was going for with this record, if it is then I’m sorry, but it really is uninteresting, dated and dross to the point where I can’t even pick out one song that I can remember after many hours spent trying to do just that.
The reality of this release is that this is a record that Craig Finn knows The Hold Steady die-hard fans will buy. Here’s the sad thing though, there are so many struggling unsigned artists a billion times better than this who will never get to release a record, especially not on a label as cool as Vagrant.
Not a fan of The Hold Steady, then avoid this, and even if you are, approach with extreme caution.