When keyboardist and mustache-twirler Franz Nicolay first appeared onstage with the Hold Steady, rooms full of bookish-but-Budweiser-pounding dudes wondered what would become of their heroes. The Replacements and Hüsker Dü didn't need no stinking keyboards to get their rocks off. As it happens, Nicolay's musicianship helped make the Hold Steady's live shows the stuff rock & roll dreams are made of. His departure in 2010 to pursue a solo career seemed odd, at least until the release of Major General and Luck & Courage, two brazenly artsy and delightfully variable solo song suites. As a songwriter Nicolay draws inspiration from René Magritte and stupid-drunk karaoke, the Pogues and Bob Geldof, and he's got the manic vocal chops to carry his bohemian punk-rock poetry all the way through his own original rock & roll dreams.