If with The Hold Steady, it felt like Craig Finn was writing the Great American Novel – a sprawling, intertwining narrative of familiar characters and recurring events across six records – as a solo artist he’s proving himself to be more of a short story writer, a rock and roll Raymond Carver, and he’s never sounded more comfortable than on this record.
Where the ground covered on Faith in the Future felt at times uneasy and anxious, there’s a more positive frame of mind on display here. God In Chicago, practically a spoken word piece with a simple piano backdrop, tells the story of a couple pushing to the next stage of a relationship, with the title line acting like an anchor to keep them safe throughout it. It also contains one of the best lines on the record: 'Went from St Paul to Cicero in my Chevrolet that didn’t have any radio / Had a boombox in the back seat that was running out of batteries.' Finn was a vocal admirer of Sun Kil Moon’s Benji a few years back – this track feels like something of a response.
Finn is on jauntier, almost Motown form elsewhere on the record. Ninety Bucks feels like a real barroom jam, all sloppy and fun and with a bit of a singalong chorus – The Hold Steady’s Tad Kubler, a peerless guitarist in his own right, lends a pretty killer solo towards the end too.
This is perhaps not as immediate a record as Faith In The Future, the narratives of which were foregrounded in the song titles a little more, but it stands up to repeated listening just as well, and confirms his status as one of American music’s best storytellers, in the same mould as Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed.
Listen to: God In Chicago, Jester & June
Buy We All Want The Same Things on LP/CD from Norman Records