Franz Nicolay: Major General

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Franz Nicolay: <em>Major General</em>

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.