Craig Finn 

Clear Heart Full Eyes

I think I speak for 34-year-olds everywhere when I say A) What is a Skrillex? and B) I want Craig Finn to be good. With The Hold Steady, Finn made a series of great albums about being a little too old for the party. That these albums sort of got worse as the band went onand, probably coincidentally, as Finn's voice got betteronly proved that life imitates art. The Hold Steady started out as Finn yelling true statements over tumultuous rock jams. If the rock softened over time, surely we would still be okay as long as we had the truth. Right?

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It turns out that rock is truth. Proof is in Clear Heart Full Eyes, whose bluesy, downtempo arrangements make Finn's trenchant story songs sound like schtick. The album is beautifully produced, but the arrangements are plodding and anemic. The near-total absence of rock puts a lot of pressure on the lyrics, which cover familiar themes: drug burnouts, crazy young women, sudden conversions to Jesus. Maybe they sound mannered now because of distance; maybe Finn has remembered this stuff for so long that he remembers himself remembering it. Maybe that's what age sounds like.

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