Archive for the 'album review' 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.