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Franz Nicolay - St Sebastian of The Short Stage [EP]

Franz Nicolay - St Sebastian of The Short Stage [EP]

Team Science Records

Review 2573 Views
Last Edited by: Chris MUG5 Maguire March 7th, 2010.

Franz Nicolay is one-time keyboard-player with The Hold Steady, now recording under his own name and with World/Inferno Friendship Society. Following on from his debut solo album "Major General", comes this EP "St Sebastian of the Short Stage". This is a quality, attractively presented package before you even get to the music: a vinyl 10” single with cover artwork and fold-out poster designed by Nicholas Gazin. The poster reverse features lyrics, credits and a gothic short story called "Paraka Mikhailivan is a Witch". This release is also available digitally but you can see just how much you’d be missing out on. Whether download or physical copy however, the music on offer is also undoubtedly high quality.

The EP comes with The Fun Side and The Depressing Side; it is a neat summation of the span of Nicolay’s music. The Fun Side opens with a collaboration with Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls. Verbal sparring from the trio about whether New Hampshire or Massachusetts is the better state leads straight into on a rollicking cover of Jonathan Richman’s ‘New England’. Following this is another rip-roaring ride: an accordion-and-piano stomp ‘The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason Jr’ inspired by Alan Moore’s graphic novel "Watchmen". Fun but also clever, upbeat and terrifically catchy.

The Depressing Side starts with ‘When The War Came’, a pain-wracked ballad on hushed acoustic guitar and piano. There is an elegant sweep to the music but an unequivocal condemnation of the horror of war: “I sang of battle / I was its balladeer / I sang of more blood and bone that I can bear to hear.” When you think things can’t get any quieter or bleaker on this side, they do with ‘I Just Want To Love’. This was “recorded in a pit of despair, way back in January 2001”. Nicolay may try to dismiss it (“What do you want / I was 23 and not sleeping much”) but its despairing loneliness is very reminiscent of Mark Eitzel. Both 'depressing' songs are beautifully poignant.

These four short songs, ranging from despair to hilarity in less than 18 minutes, cover more emotional ground than many whole albums. Calling Franz Nicolay “a keyboard player” just doesn’t do the man justice.



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