In a world of increasingly common hardships, landscapes plagued with disaster and war, austerity across the richest countries and political turbulence; everyone has disassociated themselves with external factors in their lives. Turning on the news isn’t as shocking as it should be. The sensationalism of newspaper headlines doesn’t sell as well as it used to. Social media has, arguably, made us take note of current affairs whilst simultaneously deciding to ‘ignore’ what is happening away from iPhone screens and laptop monitors.
We need something truly disastrous, not to say the aforementioned events are not that, for us to engage with the external world. As CRAIG FINN puts it with the title of his latest record: I NEED A NEW WAR. We are all at war with something; health, finances, employment, etc. and across ten tracks Finn captivates listeners with his elegant songwriting and story telling methods.
Featuring on A Celebration of the Songs of Scott Hutchinson alongside the likes of Julien Baker, Aaron Dessner and Kevin Devine (whom he has collaborated with via Devinyl Splits prior), Finn dissects Head Rolls Off, The Twist and Acts of Man with raw yet precise talent – and although I Need a New War was ~probably~ already nearing its completion before he made the pilgrimage to Rough Trade, New York, there is a Hutchinson-esque influence swarming the record.
Opening with an almost police-drama-opening-credits vibe, Blankets is one of those songs that will go down as one of the great album openers of 2019. It sets a standard of what to expect, whilst Finn simultaneously creates a sense of unpredictability throughout the LP. There are saxophones aplenty throughout, but they are not used in a particularly joyful, party fuelled way; instead they carry Finn‘s dulcet tones.
The brilliance of I Need a New War is displayed in A Bathtub in the Kitchen with the echoing chorus of “I can’t keep saying thank you.” It is perhaps the most ‘stand-out’ track on INAW, but across all ten tracks there are moments of magic. The swirly intro of Indications is reminiscent of the likes of Spacemen 3, but in typical Finn-fashion the lyrics take a d-tour via quite frankly downbeat themes (the absence of you, stay on that new medication, your friend with the death wish went back to Ohio) – the musical arrangement is sublime and wouldn’t look out of place playing over – once again – opening credits.
Linking back to the opening statement of ‘everyone has disassociated themselves with external factors’ brings us to Something to Hope For – a track Finn talks about, saying “I was listening to local radio and heard all these ads for personal injury lawyers touting the great payoffs they’ve gotten their clients for getting in accidents. I wondered if anyone I was sharing the road with was considering a collision as a money-making idea.” We are so cut off from society and the mundane, day-to-day lifestyle that when the opportunity for excitement – in this instance a car crash – arises we are quick to jump at it and grasp at Something to Hope For. We are always hoping for this kind of thing – whether literally or metaphorically – at one point, but as the theme of the record has nudged us to prepare for, “the wheels slide off the highway” prematurely.
As a whole I Need a New War is a fairly versatile record. You can deconstruct each and every lyric, take them to your book club and discuss them for an infinite amount of time. At the same time, though, it is a record that can perfectly accompany a car drive – either rural or on the motorway at 5pm on a Friday. It provokes thought, but simultaneously offers solitude and serenity. Craig Finn has delivered a phenomenal record, but left it vague enough for the listener to decide how to use it.
I Need a New War is out now