Franz Nicolay is probably the most talented musician I’ve ever had the fortune to lay eyes on. A multi-instrumentalist who has done his time in the background with bands such as The World/Inferno Friendship Society, The Hold Steady, Anti-Social Music and Against Me!, Nicolay excels when given centre stage. ”Do The Struggle” is his third full solo album and it’s a struggle for me to not come out and just declare it his best work so far. However much I love his debut “Major General”, this offering is certainly the most consistent and therefore exciting yet.
However, the first thing I noticed when listening to it was the difference in production between this and the first two albums, which had a much more stripped back, real feel to them. The production on “Do The Struggle” is good, but is possibly laid on too thick than is necessary for a Franz Nicolay album. Having heard a few of these songs live, I can vouch for the fact that they are just as good when it’s Franz and his guitar/accordion/banjo without the backing musicians as they are recorded in this way.
That aside, there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Highlights for me are opening track ‘The Hearts Of Boston’ where Nicolay belts the anthemic catchphrase “never trust a man without a horror story” and the interestingly direct ‘Did Your Broken Heart Make You What You Are’. Seeing him at Beautiful Days recently, Franz explained the latter thusly; “There is a school of thought, which I subscribe to, which says that it is the terrible things that happen to you which shape your personality as a grown-up person… But there are some people that get their heart broken once and it’s all they ever walk to talk about again. That, in my opinion, is not good enough…“
Nicolay is one of the finest poets in the industry, and these 10 tracks are in essence tales of his time on the road, honesty and experience mixed with a heavy dose of diversity, hidden turns and Franz’s own considerable musical talent.
There is a little something for everyone here; whether you appreciate poetry, enjoy folk and punk mixed together occasionally, dig banjos, like a man in a sharp suit or are simple mesmerised at how anyone can play the accordion without exploding, then listen to this album. The man is a genius, and certainly deserves more credit than he is currently getting.