Craig Finn

There's one groaner of a song on Craig Finn's otherwise fair to middling solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes. It's called "New Friend Jesus." The problem isn't that it's about Jesus—Finn's best songs with the Hold Steady are loaded with religious references and symbolism—it's that it's a youth-group campfire sing-along about how awesome it is to have "Jesus in your band." It's a cartoonish, baldly evangelical Buddy-Jesus. It's Veggie Tales. It's Billie Ames as Bibleman. It's a Mars Hill Pastor with a cool tattoo. And it's a shame, because Finn's use of religion with the Hold Steady has always been so clever and poignant and literary, even for us hopeless non-believers. This would be fine if the rest of Clear Heart was up to snuff, but while its dirgey acoustics are an intriguing departure from the Hold Steady's classic rock, its songs lack Finn's usual narrative heft. Here's hoping his giddy live charisma carries them. With Mount Moriah. ERIC GRANDY

Fri., Feb. 24, 9 p.m., 2012

 
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