Franz Nicolay – Do The Struggle
Anyone who ever saw him play with The Hold Steady would never have doubted whether Franz Nicolay had the cojones to be a good frontman. And so it has transpired. On his third album, the Kickstarter-funded Do The Struggle, he is strong of voice and character. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s of the Craig Finn school of songwriting, rich in tale and sleight of phrase (“trees are cannibals / they eat their own” – Frankie Stubbs’ Tears).
There are times when he apes some of those he no doubt helped inspire in a previous light (The Hearts of Boston is a fine opener, with more than a whiff of the Gaslight Anthem about it), and others in which he nods to more traditional influences (as in the folkish The Migration of the Cuckoo). It makes for an entertaining, if not wholly fulfilling record, proving for the second time this year that life after The Hold Steady can be almost as fruitful as life within it. [Finbarr Bermingham]