Having opened 2009 with his solo studio debut, Major General, Franz Nicolay, he of Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society and awesome mustache notoriety is closing the year out with St. Sebastian of the Short Stage. In a lot of ways, the four song 10-inch feels like an extension of Major General. For starters, half of the material could have appeared on that album – “
So in short, St. Sebastian will sound great if you loved Major General, and OK if you didn’t. Personally, I think it’s a keeper, with “the Fun Side” standing out. “New England” should be familiar to Big D and the Kids Table fans as track 11 of The Gipsy Hill EP. Same Jonathan Richman cover; different vibe. It opens with a debate between Nicolay and the Dresden Dolls about the best part of
Viglione returns for “The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason Jr.”, a song Nicolay wrote in response to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen for the Bushwick Book Club, an ongoing project in which musicians respond creatively to books. He specifically wrote the song about Under the Hood, and the lyrics read as such.
It’s hard to slag “the Depressing Side” when it’s so honestly labeled. In the liner notes, Nicolay almost sounds ashamed of “I Just Want to Love” – “What do you want, I was 23 and not sleeping much,” he writes. It does make one wonder why he bothered releasing it. With such overly earnest humdingers as “I just want to love / Is that so much to ask? / I just want to tear up at the movies / Lie out in the grass,” the song is definitely the weakest of the four. “When the War Came,” by contrast, is a little less overbearing, but it doesn’t compare to “the Fun Side.” C’mon, it’s called “the Fun Side!” Fun is… fun. Did you like “Jeff Penalty?” Are you addicted to bad ideas? Cool; hop on the first side of St. Sebastian. Those who like the taste of their tears mixed with their beers can keep the flipside.