Archive for the 'stay positive' Category

Album Preview: The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Rough Trade)

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive coverReturning home from work to find the new Hold Steady album sitting on our doormat, two months before its release and before any reviews have appeared on the internets, is just about the most exciting thing that’s happened to this us since we started this blog almost three years ago. Things got even more exciting about thirty seconds later when we pressed play to discover that this is definitely not the album that I had feared it would be. Having become familiar with the title track, with its multiple references to other Hold Steady songs and Boys And Girls In America style singalong power chorus, I was worried that this would be Hold-Steady-by-numbers, an album that practically wrote itself, an attempt to repeat the success of its predecessor at the expense of a wee bit of their considerable integrity. I was wrong: yes, this is undeniably a Hold Steady record but it reaches further than anything they’ve done before and for a large part, eschews those big choruses in favour of added nuance and complexity.

Opener “Constructive Summer” has a verse that is all Hüsker Dü and a chorus that recalls Reckoning era R.E.M., though I’m pretty sure that that comparison flashed into my mind because the songs mentions watertowers a lot. Anyway, it’s a cracking opening and the quality doesn’t let up through the whole eleven song set. Far from sounding jaded after their constant touring through 2007, the band sound energised with Craig Finn’s extraordinary lyrical prowess intact and Tad Kubler at the absolute zenith of his powers. There are horns, harpsichords and synths all serving to expand the sonic palette yet there’s no major advancement in the band’s sound but it’s certainly a more mature piece of work than Boys And Girls with Finn sounding more like Bruce Springsteen than ever before. Aside from “Constructive Summer” other highlights include “Jokes About Jamaica”, “One For The Cutters” and epic closer “Slapped Actress”, although it already sounds like one of those rare albums where your favourite track changes from day to day, with every track a contender.

I’ll probably review this in more depth nearer to its release by which time I might have calmed down a bit but at the moment Stay Positive sounds like it will give Separation Sunday a run for its money in the best Hold Steady album stakes and is a sure-fire contender for album of the year.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive @ Manchester Academy 2, 26th Feb 2008

Posted by The Ledge on 15th May 2008 at 12:04 am | comments (3)
File under album review,CD Reviews,hold steady,Reviews,stay positive,the hold steady.

Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 26th February 2008

The Hold Steady @ Manchester Academy 2, 26th Feb 2008Roughly a year ago the Hold Steady played their first ever Manchester gig at Club Academy. It was full of men in their thirties and forties. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Bricking Chick and I were the only two females in the place, not that I’d have noticed because I was too busy dancing. A week later and The Ledge was with me in Sheffield at a riotous gig that he refers to as “the greatest night of [his] life.”

Oh how things change and yet how they stay the same!

Tuesday night the Hold Steady played an NME gig in the Academy 2. The front row, instead of being packed full of middled-aged men (and me), was full of young lads, some escorted by their parents. The average age of the Hold Steady fan had dropped in the course of a year by about 10 years. Not bad really. Too bad my age won’t do the same. It was disturbing yet thrilling. I worried that the atmosphere would change and that the band’s live show, which works so well in a small venue where there is no distance between them and the audience, would suffer. I didn’t really have to worry (although I fear a leap up to the Academy 1 may be disastrous).

First, however, we had to suffer through The Haze. Now, I can’t work out how they ended up on the bill. I can only imagine that the promoter was walking along a quiet London street when he got hit in the head by, I don’t know, a large piece of debris from a Russian satellite as it crashed to Earth, and was so dazed when he got in to the office that he thought it was 1985 and getting The Cult to play was a good idea. I can’t imagine if he’d been in his right mind he’d have booked a band whose entire set consisted of variations on “She Sells Sanctuary,” a song I can almost tolerate when I’m too drunk to know better.

The Hold Steady @ Manchester Academy 2, 26th Feb 2008The Hold Steady were on great form from the start, all smiles, with Craig Finn saying that he wanted to top their last Manchester show, back in July, which he reckoned was an amazing night. I wouldn’t know, but it was great to get a different opening song, the snarling “Hornets! Hornets!” which we’d not seen live before and which led into a raucous “Stuck Between Stations.” At this point they were off, running through a set which was about half Boys & Girls in America, which the crowd sang back, and half Separation Sunday. Keyboard player Franz Nicolay, sporting a beard to go along with his handlebar moustache, was on good form, making eye contact and grinning at most of the front row, and Craig Finn kept exhorting the crowd to clap and dance more, although he seems to have stopped repeating every line he’s just sung away from the microphone for emphasis. I missed it.

The Hold Steady Setlist, Manchester, February 26, 2008Two new songs made the set: “Constructive Summer,” ostensibly about being home from university for the summer and trying to find something to do, and “Stay Positive” which is the title track from their upcoming album (and which we sneakily filmed for you viewing pleasure). While The Ledge reckons “Constructive Summer” sounds like Hüsker Dü, I thought that both songs were very much in the vein of Boys & Girls in America, that is to say, pop rock songs with great singalong choruses. I’m looking forward to hearing them when I can actually make out the lyrics.

Despite having seen the Hold Steady about a half dozen times over the last 13 months, I continue to be amazed at their ability to be playing a gig with the crowd rather than for us. A lot of bands (can you hear me, Pete Doherty) play lip service to breaking down the barrier between themselves and the audience, but most of those other bands want to be rock stars more than anything and they want to be around their fans so they can get fawned over and told how great they are. The Hold Steady, on the other hand, are no different from their audience (except of course for the fact that they’re genius songwriters) because they’re in the room for the same reason that we’re in the room – because a great gig is a thing of joy and because great music soundtracks all the important moments of our lives and getting to experience that music which is, ahem, scratched into our souls, in a live setting, with 1000 other people experiencing the same thing, can be the greatest feeling in the world.

The Hold Steady – Hornets! Hornets!

Video: “Stay Positive”

Posted by JustHipper on 28th February 2008 at 10:51 pm | comments (9)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester academy 2,manchester gigs,mp3,Reviews,stay positive,the hold steady,video,youtube.