Craig Finn – Faith In The Future
Craig Finn has spent most of his time fronting Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minneapolis rockers The Hold Steady engaged in tackling the big themes of growth and life. Albums like Separation Sunday and Stay Positive are about the big changes in people’s lives, about the big picture of failure that his characters live through, about friends who grow up together, grow apart, and find themselves again. They’re about how resurrections really feel, and about how words alone could never save us. Faith In The Future, his second solo album, dials back these ambitions to take a look at the minutiae of the lives of new(ish) characters. There’s no Holly, no Gideon, no Charlemagne on this record. Instead, we have a narrator telling a woman that he’s still in search of their son, but he took a detour into a messianic desert cult for a while. There’s a murder being plotted in a scuzzy club. There’s Sarah, an ex-girlfriend calling to try to make amends about how things ended while avoiding angering her unstable new boyfriend. There’s Finn himself, scared and wanting to be drunk on a roof in Brooklyn on September 11th, 2001, trying to figure out what the future’s supposed to mean.
To be sure, there are ample observances that hearken back to lines that have come out of Finn’s mouth before. Everyone’s still searching for their saviour, and while there’s no pipes made out of Pringles cans “Sandra From Scranton” comes off like the second draft of the girl from “Lord, I’m Discouraged” or “Joke About Jamaica”. These are songs that are very easily identifiable as Finn’s own, in the same way that guys jetting off from death-trap New Jersey towns to seek their desperate fortunes in the wilds of America are forever stamped by Bruce Springsteen. If you’re in a dying industrial belt town, working in a restaurant, going out to shows, slowly slipping into bad addictions to love and hard drugs, you’re a Craig Finn character, and Faith In The Future is a textbook study in them. Musically, he keeps things spare, mostly acoustic guitars, drums, and basic, muted keyboards; to go back to the Springsteen reference, these are the characters of Darkness On The Edge Of Town played out in the poppier half of The River.
While it lacks the epic arena punch of his band’s work, it’s a heartfelt enough album to satisfy longtime fans of that band. As a matter of fact, I would have almost preferred to hear “Maggie, I’ve Been Searching For Our Son” as a full-on Hold Steady song. Still, it’s a solid collection of songs that speak to the fact that Finn’s not just a great frontman, but a great storyteller as well.