The Felice Brothers/Craig Finn – review

Koko, London

Craig Finn could write short stories, or even poems, but instead he chooses music. Normally this indefatigable storyteller recites his everyman narratives over the heady propulsive rush of his US bar band, the Hold Steady, but his recent debut solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, has seen him strike out alone.

Finn is invariably subjected to Bruce Springsteen comparisons, but tonight this stocky, bespectacled figure is more suggestive of Elvis Costello fronting a chugging country-blues band. His barbed, wry observational essays fizz and sting: a standout is the autobiographical Rented Room, a sigh of despair at finding himself part of a depressing post-divorce middle-aged flatshare. This is adult-friendly rock with edge and intensity.

Over the last seven years, the Felice Brothers have unravelled five albums of dusty, introspective Americana, but live the New York five-piece's effusions gain in heft and vigour. In a Dylanesque rasp, singer and guitarist Ian Felice spells out songs full of bruised, battered people who refuse to let life's setbacks drag them down.

Their last album, Celebration, Florida, saw them broaden their sonic palette. This newfound experimentation is evident in the gothic sea shanty of Fire at the Pageant and in the skittering electronic beats that open Ponzi. Yet they are most effective when Felice's bearded brother James, a bear of a man, emerges from behind his keyboard to wrestle an accordion and sing the Grandaddy-like Come Home in a quavering, heartrending alto.

An object lesson in emotional intelligence and musical virtuosity, the Felice Brothers hymn the feral majesty of Mike Tyson at his peak in Cus's Catskills Gym before encoring with a mordant take on Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town and a happy-clappy update of Townes van Zandt's Two Hands. This cult band looks poised to go mainstream.

Contributor

Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Craig Finn: Clear Heart Full Eyes – review

Craig Finn's new understated style for his solo debut emphasises his marvellous storytelling, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

19, Jan, 2012 @10:10 PM

Article image
Simone Felice review – 'palpable sense of intimacy'

Simone Felice won over his audience with his intense stare, careworn voice and knack for talk-singing, writes Graeme Virtue

Graeme Virtue

16, Apr, 2014 @3:40 PM

Craig Finn: Clear Heart Full Eyes – review

The Hold Steady's Craig Finn captivates Kitty Empire with his first solo album

Kitty Empire

22, Jan, 2012 @12:05 AM

Punch Brothers – review
The Punch Brothers looked like quirky college boys, but made it clear from the opening songs that this would be no conventional concert, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

19, Jan, 2012 @6:45 PM

Article image
48 minutes with … Craig Finn

The Hold Steady singer on why you shouldn't even think of texting if you sit in the front row at one of his gigs

Michael Hann

14, Mar, 2012 @4:21 PM

The Felice Brothers: Celebration, Florida – review
The Felice Brothers include synths and found sounds to winning effect, writes Molloy Woodcraft

Molloy Woodcraft

21, May, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
CD: The Felice Brothers, The Felice Brothers

(Loose)

Jude Rogers

29, Feb, 2008 @12:10 AM

Live pop music review: The Hold Steady

Academy, Manchester
The purity and goodness of the American quintet have Dave Simpson rapt

Dave Simpson

12, Dec, 2008 @2:44 AM

Liam Finn – review
Finn's trick is to pen meticulous pop gems, and then subject them to acts of wanton creative vandalism live, writes Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

22, Jul, 2011 @5:42 PM

Article image
Neil Finn – review
There's initial nervousness while the New Zealand songwriter airs his impressive new material, before he hits the heights with past Crowded House hits

Maddy Costa

28, Nov, 2013 @4:35 PM