Published Mar 24, 2017Craig Finn is a guy with a lot to say — often within the span of a single song or sentence, for that matter. His verbose wordplay has been shouted atop the Hold Steady's songs for more than a decade now, but he's no newcomer to solo records, either. We All Want the Same Things marks the third one-man effort from Finn, and unsurprisingly, it presents a collection of narrative-driven songs.
Finn manages to cram character development, plot, imagery and, often, metaphor into each song, and the end result reads like a collection of short musical stories rather than cohesive chapters in a single novel.
"Preludes" easily conjures comparison to the Hold Steady with its tale of a drunken forlorn youth returning to his home of St. Paul, MN, circa 1994, though the almost-whimsical instrumentation veers away from the hard-hitting crunch Finn's usual band is known for. Elsewhere, the keyboard jangle of "Ninety Bucks," the synths and echoing backing vocals from Caithlin De Marrais on "Birds Trapped in the Airport" and the horns on "Tangletown" take Finn even further outside of his ordinary instrumental repertoire.
Opener "Jester and June" and "Tracking Shots" inject a bit more of the rock edge that longtime Finn fans are probably hoping for, but the album's standouts are more akin to the Hold Steady's (few and far between) ballad-leaning cuts like "Killer Parties," "Citrus" or "Lord I'm Discouraged." "God in Chicago" hears him going pretty much full-blown spoken word, as he recounts the story of a boy and a girl, brought together under sinister circumstances, experiencing a big new city for the first time. "It Hits When It Hits," meanwhile, makes a musical highlight out of the lonely, desperate narrator's emotional low — brought on, of course, by unrequited love.
We All Want the Same Things won't quench the casual fan's thirst for new drunken bar rock anthems, but for those willing to listen a bit more closely (and quietly), Finn's solo work still provides some stories worth hearing. (Partisan)