I've got about six other posts that I'm three months late on, but I couldn't wait on this one. After anxiously awaiting The Hold Steady's new release, Stay Positive, for so long, I was finally able to buy it late last Tuesday night. Needless to say, I listened to it three times before lunch the next day.
The only thing that would do it justice is to say that it is good. Really freaking good. Like 'I want to dance around like I'm in convulsions because Craig Finn does it and I can hear it in his voice as he spills his tales of drunken debauchery and youthful mistakes in love and life' good.
"Sequestered in Memphis" is the lead single from this album, and while entertaining, it's not the standout track for me. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" brings me into a Cream-esque daze that I want to climb into and never come out. A soaring guitar solo that lasts a full minute and soulful lyrics combine to make this song a memorable one in my book.
"Both Crosses" is Craig Finn's closest attempt at making a Springsteen song. Dark and dreary, it delves into the emotions of Christ's crucifixion - not happy stuff. Then again, nothing on this album is overly joyful. While some of the songs sound decently upbeat, the album title serves more as a warning than anything.
If I were to pick one song, I'd say "Magazines" is the front runner for a back to basics Hold Steady track. Wry lyrics, piano, and hard guitar riffs cover all their usual bases on this uptempo tune that is sure to please.
Overall, I have to say I really like this album. I don't think it will have the same staying power as their previous releases, but I think it will give them greater exposure as a band. I needed a new Hold Steady fix and this fills the gap nicely for now. I don't know how many times I can listen to "Party Pit" but I was beginning to test the limits, so this comes at just the right time.
I think Finn is branching out just enough to keep things interesting. While not reinventing himself, he is working with different styles and I like that (check out the Frampton sounding guitar work on "Joke About Jamaica"). The Hold Steady know what their sound is and they know that it works. While they might never achieve Springsteen status - and I know the analogy is overused, though accurate - I don't think an artist like Springsteen could flourish in today's market. Cream would never score and Van Morrison could take his pipes and go home. However, I think in 20-30 years, we'll have an interesting discovery of great music that got lost in the mix and never was able to fully develop.
Here's to hoping The Hold Steady find their Miracle-Gro.
The Hold Steady -
*Lord, I'm Discouraged.mp3