Franz Nicolay is a pretty accomplished musician. He has played
on songs with many bands, perhaps most notably being when he joined
bar rockers The Hold Steady, before leaving the band citing
creative differences. He seemed to indicate that his musical aspirations
are something more artistic than what The Hold Steady wished to do,
so he left and released a solo album titled Luck And Courage.
It's an album that does have high aspirations. It seeks to be quirky,
clever, poetic, and just unique in any way possible. That by itself
is never a bad thing for an artist, since it's always better to try
and be creative than to play it safe.
Well, does the album succeed? Kind of, a little bit, sometimes; it's
clever and creative alright and it has some good lyrics, but as a
whole it's pretty boring and forgettable. It doesn't help that the
opening song, "Felix And Adelita", has no strong hook, music
that just kind of meanders through the song, and lyrics that tell
a story but don't really feel like they were meant to be a song. Some
of the lines are interesting, but as a whole the song is forgettable,
which will turn off many listeners before the album has even started.
It's a running problem throughout the album. The lyrics that Nicolay
has written feel like poetry and stories. However, that doesn't mean
they work well in songs. A poem can get away with meandering and not
having a strong hook, because poetry is something different than a
lyric. A lyric is designed to be sung and needs to have enough of
a hook to make the listener remember it. Much of the album succumbs
to the problem, with most of the songs having lyrics that are very
poetic, but not terribly memorable.
That's not to say that every song on the album is boring, because
that wouldn't be true. "This Is Not A Pipe" is probably
the best thing on the album since it does feel like an actual song
and has a strong hook. It's abstract and the repetition of "I
have not been unhappy my whole life" ties the verses together.
It's a good example of a song that is artistic and unique without
sacrificing the things that make a great song memorable. "Have
Mercy" is also a strong number with a darker tone to it. The
lyrics are a haunting plea for deliverance from the singer's own desires,
which are hurting him.
In the end, this isn't a bad album and it's worth listening to just
because it is creative. My complaint is that after listening to the
album over and over again, I struggled to remember what any of the
songs sounded like. If the lyrics were tightened up and edited to
be more like songs and less like abstract stories, the album would
have been that much more memorable and interesting. But based on the
strength of the lyrics and music, I have to say that this is a well
done album that will likely not disappoint fans.
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