Reviews Franz Nicolay Do The Struggle

Franz Nicolay

Do The Struggle

It must be stated that the quirkily moustachioed Franz Nicolay is an intriguing and rather singular gentleman. For those who saw him live during his time in either The Hold Steady or World/ Inferno Friendship Society, it was evident that the multi-instrument wielding troubadour had the potential to become a great front man. However his earlier solo material never really managed to convince anyone that he was one. So with this latest album, the Kickstarter funded Do The Struggle, Nicolay has brought on a new production approach, courtesy of Oktopus from experimental hip-hop duo dälek, in an attempt to refine his alt. country/ modern folk leanings into a more coherent record. Yet whilst Oktopus’ contribution is often interesting, and almost always apparent, it is the addition of the ambient, numerical ‘fillers’ between the real songs that become a point of contention- bringing you out of the album and making it just that little harder to enjoy.

From the outset of Do the Struggle, Nicolay shows that his greatest skill is as a lyricist: “Hearts of Boston” an Irish-American bar stomper reminiscent of punks like The Dropkick Murphys, is filled with witty slogan-esque lines like “never trust a man without a horror story.” Appropriately for an opener, it is easily the most accessible track on the album, incredibly energetic and helps to ease in the uninitiated to Nicolay’s voice.

Following this is the title track- far less buoyant and more of a ‘slow-burner’ track; it is far more reliant of Nicolay’s skills as a story teller than as a musician. Whilst it is a decent song, its awkward position between the opener and the wonderfully titled “Did Your Broken Heart Make You Who You Are?” builds on the frustration that despite the quality of the individual songs, they fail to properly mesh together into the coherent album that was hoped for.

And that really is a shame because between tracks “Frankie Stubbs’ Tears”, which include the wonderful opening lines "Trees are cannibals / They eat their own" to the album highlight, “The Day all the Leaves Came Down” Nicolay delivers a slew of very impressive songs. ‘Take No Prisoners’ featuring Emilyn Brodsky is of particular note- slower and more of a ballad than the other tracks on the album, the stripped down production creates a raw and warm sound. In fact I would love to hear an entire album of the pair together.

Franz Nicolay’s reverb heavy vocals are a good accompaniment to his generally frantic delivery on lyrically intricate songs and in spite of the unfortunate inclusion of Mumford and Sons echoing hoe-down moments, Do the Struggle is an engaging and relatively unique offering. Yet despite the high quality of the real songs, this album just isn’t as good as it should be- between the distraction of the ambient filler material, the awkward over-production of many tracks and a relatively awkward ordering of the songs, this an album better suited to iTunes than vinyl. This is by far the best of his solo albums but Oktopus is not the right producer and Nicolay should really learn that sometimes, less really is more.

7.1 / 10Dan Fisher
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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7.1 / 10

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