FRANZ NICOLAYHold Steady keyboardist's solo album
tears the curtain too far
Franz Nicolay's tenure as the Hold
Steady's keyboardist provides a large, pre-built audience for his
first solo album, Major General. However, dubbing the album a
Hold Steady side project ignores his overflowing work with many other
acts (World/Inferno Friendship Society, Anti-Social Music, Guignol,
among others). Unsurprisingly, the sonic mix of Major General
intimates his klezmer-cabaret experience sometimes more than a punk
take on Bruce Springsteen.
Lyrically, Major General can ride
shotgun with Nicolay's most-famous band. His words stand in the crowd
cheering on karaoke messiah "Jeff Penalty," and sidle up to
underground punks on "Cease-Fire, Or, Mrs. Norman Maine."
The latter is mostly just Nicolay's carefully manicured mustache, his
workingman's tenor and a banjo, falling into a comfortable groove
like the Mountain Goats best material. Elsewhere, Major General's
arrangements are ragged, or worse, distracting. "I want you to
understand why I do the things I do / cause up here in these hot
lights is just between us two," he sings in the final lines of
the poetic "Confessions Of An Ineffective Casanova." A
nice sentiment, but for a flotsam of guitar searching for a hook and
coming up empty, it's a chore to stick around until then.
Listen to Franz Nicolay on MySpace.