Album Review: Franz Nicolay keeps up pell-mell pace on 'Do the Struggle'

Photo by Miles Kerr

Latter-day vaudevillian Franz Nicolay keeps up the pell-mell pace on his third solo album, “Do the Struggle,” dashing through songs with the urgency of a man overflowing with deeply felt emotions and important things to say. It’s compelling as hell on opener “The Hearts of Boston,” a barroom reel with fiddle careening over a speedy shuffle beat as Nicolay muses, “Ten years of labor is a hard time/ Fifty years of disappointment is a hard time, too.” “Frankie Stubbs’ Tears” is more of a rocker with stinging guitar and swells of organ blossoming into a big sing-along refrain at the end, while “Did Your Broken Heart Make You Who You Are?” takes a page from Nicolay’s old band, the Hold Steady, with twisty lyrics and an anthemic vocal melody over a swaying blend of guitar and piano. Ukulele player Emilyn Brodsky takes lead vocals on the spare, sad banjo-and-drums song “Take No Prisoners,” and a squiggly, backward-sounding guitar line underpins the song as it shifts through sections.

Nicolay softens the pace here with numbered between-songs interludes consisting of swells of instrumental noise. They allow just enough time to catch your breath before he pulls you back in.

— Eric R. Danton

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Did Your Broken Heart Make You Who You Are? mp3

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