Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Looking for Jesus with Craig Finn

Craig Finn loves to mingle the sacred with the secular. Religious themes frequently infiltrate the druggy party songs that he writes for The Hold Steady, and his two solo albums - Clear Heart, Full Eyes and Faith in the Future - are if anything even more preoccupied with spiritual matters than their collaborative counterparts.

I've been listening to Faith in the Future (which came out last month) quite a bit this week, and it may well be the perfect example of Finn's fondness for hurling biblical characters into contemporary settings and forcing them to interact with the profanity of the 21st century. The album is populated by apostles ('Doubting' Thomas shows up on Newmyer's Roof, while Simon Peter lends his professional title to Saint Peter Hanging Upside Down) but, in the absence of a messiah to follow around, they seem kind of jaded:

"Doubting Thomas had a cynical take - he said, 'The more you destroy, the more you create.'"

But, unbeknownst to his fish-out-of-water disciples, Jesus is here too (just as he was on Clear Heart, Full Eyes, albeit in a rather different capacity). Have a listen to I Was Doing Fine (Then a Few People Died), Faith in the Future's final track and my personal highlight:

Why the heck isn't this song longer?

My theory - and I could be way off the mark here, but bear with me - is that the girl in I Was Doing Fine is Jesus, who by the power of song has also been teleported to NYC circa 2015 and forced to deal with it as best she can. The only evidence I have is the couplet that heralds the song's coda ("I never said I was Jesus/Some nights I keep it a secret"), but it's a compelling thought; with her twelve apostles scattered to the wind and the world at large coldly indifferent, Finn's gender-flipped Jesus turns to alcohol ("It was the last of the bottle/It was the third of the evening") to help her cope as she wonders whether to keep things on the down low ("Some nights I keep it a secret") or to try and recruit a fresh set of disciples in her new surroundings ("Some nights I try to get noticed").

Honestly, I doubt any of this is what Craig Finn was really going for, but it would be the perfect crystallisation of his usual yen for dirtying old-school religion with modern American life. Jesus, Thomas, Saint Peter - they're all out  there, mixed in with ordinary people like you and me and Sandra from Scranton, and it turns out they're all  just as flawed as us, thinking the same thoughts and using the same methods as us to get by.

1 comment:

  1. What I think is interesting about Craig Finn/The Hold Steady is that unlike a lot of similar rock artists who use religious imagery and characters in their music, Finn is still a practicing member of the faith (in his case, Catholicism). I think when you know this, it adds an added dimension, given that when they sing about these Bibical figures, they truly believe in them.