Posts Tagged ‘Craig Finn’

May be an image of drink and text that says 'HOLD STEADY THE THE WEEKENDER 2022 LONDON, MARCH 4-6 ELECTRIC BALLROOM MARCH 4&5 MOTH CLUB MARCH 6'

“The Weekender”, our annual trip to London, is one of the best times of the year for The Hold Steady. These are always incredible shows in a place that is very special to us. And while we enjoyed the necessary virtual version in 2021, we are thrilled to announce the live and in person Weekender 2022. As always we will start with two nights at The Electric Ballroom, followed by a Sunday appearance at Moth Club.

The Soundcheck / Happy Hour will be happening for each Electric Ballroom show, we’ll be doing a pub quiz the afternoon of the Moth Club show, and a special The Hold Steady beer is brewing for the weekend.

We can’t wait to celebrate with you, and we hope you will join us!

My 2xLP Record Store Day release “All These Perfect Crosses” will be available digitally on 2/26/21 on Partisan Records. Accompanying the release, we’ve partnered with Neighborhood Comics to create a standard and deluxe print edition of Andrew Greenstone’s All These Perfect Crosses comic. To celebrate, we’ve released two versions of “Calvary Court” (full band and piano versions), which is one of a number of songs illustrated in the comic book. You can pre-order both editions now below.

The vinyl is still available in some stores, check your local record shop. Huge thanks to Andrew Greenstone for creating something so cool around these songs, and to Neighborhood Comics for making us the first release on their publishing imprint. Stay Positive.

‘All These Perfect Crosses is a collection of songs that came from the sessions for Faith In The Future, We All Want The Same Things, and I Need A New War. For Craig, these three records are one body of work, and the songs on this collection are pieces of that larger narrative. For various reasons, these songs didn’t appear on the records they were recorded for, but they still tell a part of the same story: modern people trying to make it through, to keep their heads above water, to live past their mistakes, to survive.

‘All These Perfect Crosses’ out February 26th.

 

Heaven Is Whenever

The Hold Steady have announced a 10th Anniversary Reissue of their 2010 album “Heaven Is Whenever”, and with it comes the usual assortment of bonus material. Yes, that means there’s previously unreleased material. “Separate Vacations,” out along with the news of the reissue, has been performed live before but never released in its pristine studio form. It’s a cascading midtempo rock track that moves with the beaten-down grace that defined that era of the band.

In addition to nine rare or unreleased songs, the reissue includes liner notes by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. The Hold Steady shared this message about it all: Everyone seems to have an opinion about our fifth album, “Heaven is Whenever”. Ten years later, going over these songs for this reissue, we’ve taken on a great new appreciation for this collection. With some distance, it seems we were trying to get somewhere else, and this was a necessary transition record. The songs are weary, but with a dark humour. It might even be the funniest Hold Steady LP, although it’s sometimes hard to tell because it doesn’t convey the same ecstatic joy as some of the earlier records.

For the 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, Heaven is Whenever” includes nine bonus tracks that tell the story of the time it was made. We were chasing something that was mostly undefined, and we kept making more and more music. We recorded stuff we forgot about like “Wonderful Struggle”, stuff we’ve played live but never released, like “Separate Vacations”, and even an alternate version of “We Can Get Together”. The album wasn’t a lot of fun to make. It was recorded in fits and starts. At one point, we left Dreamland Studios early due to a medical issue. The label folks flew in and visited to see what the hell was going on. Franz had left the band, Steve had yet to join, and we were coming off several years of non-stop touring.

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We’d become a bit more self-aware than in our early days. Many of our favourite bands didn’t make it to their 5th LP, and it’s hard to keep a band evolving for that long.  One huge bright spot about this period is that Steve Selvidge came in for the touring on this album cycle. He became and remains a huge part of the heart and soul of The Hold Steady. In fact, our biggest regret about Heaven now is that we didn’t record this album with Franz and Steve. There’s even more to the story — the Super Deluxe version of the album available on streaming platforms will include tracks from the 2009 Avatar Sessions in New York City, versions of “Heaven is Whenever” songs that Franz was working on with the band prior to his departure. Here in 2020, we’re very proud of Heaven is Whenever. It’s the sound of a band pushing through difficult times by making music about that very struggle. It acknowledges suffering as part of human life. And with all the extra songs that we recorded beyond the album tracks, it’s a testament to the band’s willingness to show up and try to work through uncertainty. Our amazing friend Patterson Hood from the Drive-By Truckers has a lot more to say about that in the LP liner notes.

Released November 27th, 2020

THE HOLD STEADY (2009) was:
Bobby Drake,
Craig Finn,
Tad Kubler,
Galen Polivka,

THE HOLD STEADY (2020) is:
Bobby Drake,
Craig Finn,
Tad Kubler,
Franz Nicolay,
Galen Polivka,
Steve Selvidge,

Happy 10 years to Heaven is Whenever!

The Hold Steady Share New Single “Heavy Covenant”

Now eight albums into their career, the Hold Steady are well known for their elaborate storytelling and explosive, communal rock music. According to frontman Craig Finn, their eighth studio album should satisfy everyone’s expectations: “Open Door Policy” was very much approached as an album vs. a collection of individual songs,” he said in a press release, “and it feels like our most musically expansive record.” Produced by Josh Kaufman, the album was completed before the pandemic began, and Finn notes that it touches on themes including “power, wealth, mental health, technology, capitalism, consumerism, and survival.

“Open Door Policy” is our 8th studio album and will be released on February 19th, 2021 via our own label, Positive Jams, in association with Thirty Tigers.

We recorded “Open Door Policy” in two different sessions in the back half of 2019. Once again we teamed with producer Josh Kaufman and engineer Dan Goodwin, this time at the Clubhouse studio in upstate NY. Our intention was to create an album that worked as a grand piece, rather than a collection of songs. 2019 was an active year for The Hold Steady – our writing was consistent, and new songs were coming in pretty regularly. The recording process was creative, open and fun.

We were pretty much done with the record by the time we played a few of the new songs in London the first week of March 2020, as the unease of the pandemic was setting in. Not long after we got back from London, NYC shut down and we began to see our 2020 shows postponed. Over the next months, it became obvious that timing this album’s release to specific weekend celebrations wouldn’t be a possibility in the near future. But we were still excited to share it.

The songs on “Open Door Policy” are about power, wealth, & mental health. They’re about technology, occupation, consumerism, freedom, fandom and escape. And although the album was written and recorded in 2019, the themes of this record seem to be underscored and highlighted by this year of virus and quarantine.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for understanding. We’re really glad that you’re here.

Stay Positive! The Hold Steady 

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Releases February 19th, 2021

The Hold Steady: Bobby Drake, Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka, Steve Selvidge

Horns: Stuart Bogie & Jordan McLean
Background Vocals: Annie Nero & Cassandra Jenkins
Percussion: Matt Barrick

The Hold Steady have announced their eighth studio album, “Open Door Policy”. The new record will be released on their own Positive Jams label on February 19th, 2021. In addition to the album announcement, the band also shared the first single, “Family Farm.”

“Songs are created a bunch of different ways in The Hold Steady, but to me, our most classic songs are driving rock songs with piano breaks,” said singer Craig Finn of the new single (via press release). “‘Family Farm’ fits the bill. The genesis of the song was the guitar riff that starts it. Tad Kubler played a home demo for me and our producer Josh Kaufman, and we thought it was worth pursuing. At this point it had the working title ‘August’. We brought it to the band and Franz had the idea for the bridge. This seemed like a ‘scene change’ of sorts, and gave the song more depth and intrigue. We recorded it in December 2019 at the Clubhouse in upstate NY, just after our annual run of shows at the Brooklyn Bowl. Our friends Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean added horns a bit later. I was personally happy to get a mention of Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ in the lyrics, and I appreciate it even more after Eddie Van Halen’s unfortunate recent passing. Overall, it feels like a song that will be fun to play live – uptempo, dynamic, and a chorus with shout-along potential.”

The album was recorded at The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, N.Y. It was produced by Kaufman and engineered by D. James Goodwin. In addition to The Hold Steady, the album features Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean on horns, Cassandra Jenkins and Annie Nero on backup vocals, and Matt Barrick on percussion.

“Open Door Policy was very much approached as an album vs. a collection of individual songs, and it feels like our most musically expansive record,” said Finn. “This album was written and almost entirely recorded before the pandemic started, but the songs and stories explore power, wealth, mental health, technology, capitalism, consumerism, and survival – issues which have compounded in 2020.”

The unveiling of Open Door Policy comes on the heels of the band’s announcement of their virtual Massive Nights shows at Brooklyn Bowl. “Set for December 3rd, 4th, and 5th, this very special Massive Nights will be live-streamed around the world, allowing everyone everywhere to raise a glass and sing a favourite song alongside fellow fans far and wide,” read a press release.

What we’re possibly more excited about is ending 2020 by bringing you new music and starting off 2021 with a brand new album! Open Door Policy is our 8th studio album and will be released on February 19th, 2021 via our own label, Positive Jams, in association with Thirty Tigers. You can pre-order it here! http://shop.theholdsteady.net We recorded Open Door Policy in two different sessions in the back half of 2019. Once again we teamed with producer Josh Kaufman and engineer Dan Goodwin, this time at the Clubhouse studio in upstate NY. Our intention was to create an album that worked as a grand piece, rather than a collection of songs. 2019 was an active year for The Hold Steady — our writing was consistent, and new songs were coming in pretty regularly. The recording process was creative, open and fun. We were pretty much done with the record by the time we played a few of the new songs in London the first week of March 2020, as the unease of the pandemic was setting in. Not long after we got back from London, NYC shut down and we began to see our 2020 shows postponed. Over the next months, it became obvious that timing this album’s release to specific weekend celebrations wouldn’t be a possibility in the near future. But we were still excited to share it. The songs on Open Door Policy are about power, wealth, & mental health.

They’re about technology, occupation, consumerism, freedom, fandom and escape. And although the album was written and recorded in 2019, the themes of this record seem to be underscored and highlighted by this year of virus and quarantine. Big thanks to Dave McLaughlin for his photo on the album cover, which appears above. “Family Farm” is the first song from the album we’re sharing. It originated from a demo Tad brought in, with Franz adding a classic THS bridge. Our friends Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean came in with the horns. The song even includes a mention of the great Eddie Van Halen solo “Eruption”, an unintended tribute to a great rock hero in light of his recent passing.

TRACKLIST: The Feelers Spices Lanyards Family Farm Unpleasant Breakfast Heavy Covenant The Prior Procedure RiptownMe & Magdalena Hanover Camera Parade Days

Available on limited edition colored vinyl (blue!), standard vinyl, and limited edition CD. You will receive an instant grat of “Family Farm” with your purchase and digital download of the full album on release date, February 19th, 2021. Of course we have lots of other new Open Door Policy goodies to order with the music at The Hold Steady online shops: t-shirts, infant clothing, winter hats and anything you may have missed. To celebrate the new album and Massive Nights 2020, we’re running a sale in The Hold Steady online shops.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for understanding. We’re really glad that you’re here.

Stay Positive! The Hold Steady

Craig finn all these perfect crosses

For Craig Finn, these three records feel like one big body of work, and the songs on this collection are a part of that piece. For various reasons, these songs didn’t appear on the records they were recorded with, but they still tell a part of the same story – modern people trying to make it through, to keep their heads above water, to live past their mistakes, to survive. “All These Perfect Crosses” gives a glimpse into what this collection of odds and ends will sound like. It’s a tender piano ballad that clocks in at just under three minutes and its easy to see how this didn’t fit into what went on his three solo albums.

Craig is best known as the frontman of The Hold Steady, however he is also a skilled songwriter in his own right. 2019’s I Need A New War solidified Craig as one of today’s most important storytellers, among the ranks of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits.

I wanted to tell you about my new release! “All These Perfect Crosses” is a 2xLP set out for Record Store Day, courtesy of the amazing people at Partisan Records. The songs largely come from the sessions that made up my last three records, but it’s also got a few demos and acoustic versions. All of this music was lovingly produced by Josh Kaufman, and a great deal of it was recorded by the awesome Dan Goodwin. (The demos and acoustic tracks were recorded by Josh).

These are songs I really love, they often just didn’t fit the theme or the flow of the record they were recorded for. Thus, I’m thrilled to be putting these together and putting them out in the world on vinyl. I wrote liner notes about each of the tracks, and the whole package is really cool. Artwork by Vance Wellenstein .

Double black LP collecting B-sides and alternate version from Craig Finn’s previous three albums Faith In The Future (2015), We All Want The Same Things (2017), I Need A New War (2019).
Craig Finn – ‘All These Perfect Crosses’ is the title track from Craig Finn’s Record Store Day exclusive album. Record Store Day will take place on June 20, 2020

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The Hold Steady were on a roll before quarantine, with a great new album and their sporadic weekend runs that are also always great, and since quarantine started, they’ve been releasing recordings from those weekend runs on Bandcamp and donating a portion of the proceeds to the venues they were recorded at. It’s a very cool thing they’re doing, and it reminds you how great of a live band The Hold Steady still are, but for today’s live video roundup we’re going back in time to when The Hold Steady were supporting “Boys and Girls in America”.

The Hold Steady are a band you really need to see live — they and frontman Craig Finn especially display a great deal of showmanship — and this pro-shot video really makes it feel like you’re right there with them, rocking out with all the enthusiastic fans in the crowd.

show from the Hovefestival in Norway June 26th 2007.

01 – Stuck Between Stations 0:59, 
02 – The Swish –
04:50,
04 – Chips Ahoy!
09:03,
05 – Hot Soft Light
12:22,
06 – Cattle And The Creeping Things
16:25,
07 – Massive Nights –
20:14,
08 – Party Pit –
22:55,
09 – You Can Make Him Like You
26:51,
10 – Multitude of casualties
30:39,
11 – Stevie Nix –
34:03,
12 – Same Kooks –
39:10,
13 – Hornets! Hornets! –
42:12,
14 – Your Little Hoodrat Friend
46:50,
15 – Southtown Girls –
51:28,
16 – Killer Parties –
56:20,

Hey everyone,

We hope you are all getting through these unusual times and washing your hands a lot.  Unfortunately, we don’t have an update on rescheduling Minneapolis, Nashville, Atlanta or Denver, but rest assured as soon as we do, we will let everyone know what is happening.

In the meantime, we’re continuing with Unified Fridays and releasing another live show on Bandcamp today.  Part of the proceeds from your Bandcamp live show purchase go to various venue employee funds of places we’ve played recently and, in some cases, released live recordings from.  In the past month, generosity from The Unified Scene has led to donations to the employee funds for Brooklyn Bowl (Brooklyn), White Eagle Hall (New Jersey) and The Crocodile (Seattle).

We will continue contributing to these funds together until we’re able to play live shows again.  Many of the people who work across all the venues are responsible for helping foster the environment to make Constructive Summer, The Weekender, and Massive Nights such amazing experiences.  You can also donate directly to these funds below:

Seattle/The Crocodile,New Jersey/White Eagle Hall, Brooklyn Bowl

Our last shows before this lockdown happened over The Weekender III – an incredible weekend in London in early March. The Weekender has become a fantastic part of the THS calendar, and the audiences in London are simply amazing to our band. For our next live release, we’re flashing back a year ago to the second night of The Weekender II- March 9th, 2019 at Electric Ballroom. We got on stage to “All The Young Dudes”, opened with “Stations” and the night unfolded. This one contains the live debut of “Denver Haircut” and a “Discouraged’ dedicated to our friend Scott Hutchison. Pretty rocking four song encore to close it out too. Thinking lovingly of The Weekender and how awesome it will feel to do this again. In the meantime, check out this show.

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Recorded live at Electric Ballroom in London, United Kingdom on March 9, 2019.

For each Bandcamp “Unified Fridays” live recording THS releases, we’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds to a staff fund from one of the past shows.

released April 17th, 2020

The Hold Steady are: Bobby Drake, Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka, Steve Selvidge

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay Positive. The Hold Steady.

Recorded live at The Crocodile in Seattle, Washington on August 17th, 2019.

We had an amazing West Coast weekend in Seattle in August 2019, holing up at The Crocodile for three super fun shows. We’d just released “Thrashing Thru The Passion” and were in the mood to celebrate. This set kicks it off with a Positive Jam and features quite a few songs from TTTP: Epaulets, Star 18, Confusion in the Marketplace Entitlement Crew– and Blackout Sam in the encore.

Side note, we’d written the song “Meet Me In The Lobby” at soundcheck that day and recorded it the next week in Chicago. Good times. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening. Thanks for understanding. Stay Positive.

For each Bandcamp “Unified Fridays” live recording The Hold Steady releases, we’ll be donating a portion of the proceeds to a staff fund from one of the past shows.
Proceeds for this show will go to the staff relief fund for The Crocodile.

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released April 3rd, 2020

The Hold Steady are: Bobby Drake, Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka, Steve Selvidge

The Hold Steady had three different focal points – guitarist Tad Kubler was a classic rock riff machine, emulating the bar band rock of Thin Lizzy. Vocalist Craig Finn was inspired by hip hop, weaving interlocking narratives of Catholic teenagers in sin and redemption in Minneapolis. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay added an extra layer to their sound, his piano and organ drawing comparisons to Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Between 2004 and 2006, the Hold Steady released three albums “Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday”, and “Boys and Girls in America”  that set a different standard for what indie rock could sound like. When their Brooklyn peers were mining postpunk and dance music, the Hold Steady channeled Springsteen, Thin Lizzy and ‘70s hard rock radio to back Finn’s bleeding heart missives about bad girlfriends and boring boyfriends, summer beers with your best friends, lovers who were bad news, kids getting high by the river and waking up in different cities. There was nothing like his voice, either; he sounded like someone nursing the world’s worst head cold while trying to talk through a mouthful of margarita mix. On top of kick-ass guitar riffs, he invented an entire universe in a ubiquitous speak-sing cadence with the persistence of a drunk stranger yelling a story at you.

The Hold Steady peaked with three great records in the 2000s; 2005’s Seperation Sunday featured their densest narratives, 2006’s Boys and Girls in America was their most accessible, while 2008’s Stay Positive was their most eclectic. Nicolay left the band before 2010’s Teeth Dreams, and without Nicolay, and as Finn moved from shouting to singing, they lost some of their identity and critics started comparing them disparagingly to Weezer and Counting Crows.

The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me

Originally together in Lifter Puller, vocalist Craig Finn and guitarist Tab Kubler were inspired to form The Hold Steady while watching The Band’s The Last Waltz. Kubler plays classic rock inspired riffs while Finn spits out dense lyrics inspired by hip hop, interweaving stories about sex, drugs, and Catholicism. Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but in light of what follows it feels like a rough draft – Finn’s narratives would become even more complex and the band’s sounds both became more complex.

Their 2004 debut album, Almost Killed Me, sounds like the E Street Band after they slipped into the gutter, Thin Lizzy if they got fat and American, and a hundred other bands from Southside Johnny to the early-’70s Kinks that liked to party, but did it with the occasional tear-filled eyes and desperate hearts. Like the best of these classic rock staples, the Hold Steady can flat out rock. Kubler can rip off a fret-searing solo with bullfighter style, which he does quite frequently, and the rhythm section has enough muscle power to stop a speeding locomotive. On top of this vintage rock chassis, the band drop Finn’s vocals and vision. Without him, the music is straightforward enough to appeal to the AOR masses and backstreet fanatics; with him they are far too weird and wild. His pop culture name-drops, knowing references to obscure musicians like Andre Cymone, real-sounding tales of the streets, and flights of knuckle-busting anger are far out in left field, and his bracing, eye-bulging delivery of said lyrics pushes it even further over the top. It’s a high-wire balancing act of sorts, and it would be easy for the band to topple over into boring mainstream rock cliches or veer into embarrassing drunken poetry territory but it never happens, not even once. The group plays with intense energy at all times, propping Finn up and giving his words the dramatic backdrop they deserve. Finn holds up his end of the bargain by being hilarious and oddly touching as he rambles, coughs, and shouts his way through what sounds like a lifetime of journal entries, inside jokes, and record store soliloquies.

Franz Nicolay only guests on a few tracks here, but his keyboards would beef up their sound on future releases. The strongest tracks include ‘Knuckles’, with its repetitive lyrical formula (eg. “I’ve been trying to get people to call me Freddie Mercury/But people keep calling me Drop Dead Fred”, and ‘Certain Songs’, which still feels like a prototype for later piano based Hold Steady tracks.

Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but at the same time it’s like a rough sketch for The Hold Steady’s future releases.

The Hold Steady Separation Sunday

Separation Sunday notches up everything from the excellent start of Almost Killed Me; The Hold Steady’s arrangements are more muscular and detailed, with Franz Nicolay as a full-time member on keyboards, while Craig Finn’s lyrics tell fragments of inter-weaved narratives. Thematically dense, Separation Sunday revolves around four characters: the narrator Craig, the pimp Charlemagne, the skinhead Gideon, and Holly/Hallelujah, who veers between faith, addiction, and prostitution.

While a lot of the appeal of Separation Sunday comes from Craig Finn’s intertwining stories, there’s plenty of musical punch here too.  Separation Sunday though. It is a much darker record, revolving around drug casualties, broken lives, a hoodrat fixation, spiritual and physical dissipation, and general despair, and there aren’t as many easy laughs this time out — but instead the listener gets lots of head-shaking wonderment at Craig Finn’s genius lyrics and voice. His gruff, in-your-ear vocals negotiate the twisting torrent of words like a world-class skater kid. He is insanely literate and insanely insistent: he is strangely brilliant. He is also just about the best rock & roll frontman Whipping up a classic rock-inspired frenzy of monitor-straddling guitar riffs, dual harmony leads, E Street piano flourishes, and galloping horns, the band behind Finn sounds like nothing less than Jim Steinman’s dream group. You could talk about great individual songs (the epic “How a Resurrection Really Feels,” the piledriving album opener “Hornets! Hornets!,” the weird and almost funky “Charlemagne in Sweatpants”), but the strength of the album is in the flow from song to song and the way the intensity level (which starts off at a near fever pitch) elevates until your head is just about ready to burst from the thrill of it all. Call it a quaint idea in 2005, but Separation Sunday is truly an album, one that sounds almost perfect when played from beginning to end in the proper running order. Block out about 42 minutes sometime, hold steady, and get ready for indie rock — no, rock & roll — at its sweatiest, most intense, and most impressive.

The most immediate track here is perhaps ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’, with its rhythmic guitar fills and powerful organ backdrops. As Finn is largely talk singing, Kubler is free to play almost anything, and the riff that fuels ‘Stevie Nix’ is both brutal and intricate. The record climaxes with the double punch of the short mournful ‘Crucifixion Cruise’ and the celebratory ‘How A Resurrection Really Feels’, which bounces along with an optimistic horn line.

Separation Sunday is fascinating; all the literary and classic rock allusions make it fodder for aging music critics, but it’s accessible all the same, although you might want to start with the more conventional next record.

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America

Boys And Girls In America is more accessible than its predecessors, with Craig Finn employing vocal melodies on many of the tracks, while the band’s approach is less brutal and is reminiscent of the E-Street band in their prime. Some of Separation Sunday’s characters make return appearances (“Charlemagne pulls street corner scams/Gideon’s got a pipe made from a Pringles can/Holly’s insatiable/She still looks incredible”), while Finn’s still endlessly quotable (“We started recreational/It ended up all medical/It came on hot and soft and then/It tightened up its tentacles”).

One of the ballads here, “First Night,” begins with a piano and an acoustic guitar lilting a rather loose melody that gives Craig Finn the support he needs to get out of his pent-up, novelistic, wordsmithing mouth. All of these characters are young, desperate, and fleeing from their inner fear, except for Holly who is wise enough to tell the protagonist that “words alone never could save us”….and then “cried when she told us about Jesus.” The piano fills out that unfillable hole in Holly and the rest, no matter where they run. Finn can do nothing but repeat his lines and find a last verse somewhere to let the song just fade into silence, because it never really ends. Boys and Girls in America is a sophisticated shambles. There’s still a barely-on-the-rail feel, despite the literate compositions. Finn’s always either behind or ahead of the beat, but it’s alright, his bandmates can more than handle that because they’re as engaged as he is. There are a few guests, and even a horn section on one track, and the classic girl group chorus call and response . There’s real sadness in the Wall of Sound and chanted chorus in “You Can Make Him Like You,” which examines everything from addiction to betrayal, to the insecurity in love that can push someone over the edge, never to return. Thin Lizzy makes a return on “Massive Nights,” complete with roiling bass as Finn opens the whole escapist mix, swinging and setting up a hedonist’s dream: “The guys were feeling good about their liquor run…” There are low expectations and drama where only the music counts. The tune turns back on itself when the singer is trying to convince himself and the huge, wailing, responsorial chorus, that something so utterly suburban could be cool, until “She had the gun in her mouth/She was shooting up at her dreams/When the chaperone said that/We’d been crowned/the king and the queen.” And it just ends. The reason this record is worth embracing, and even celebrating, is because it’s an honest to God rock & roll album. It exposes in the first and third person what it means to grow up right now in the midst of suburban waste. It’s angsty, but Finn’s got a sense of humor, and the band can play their asses off. That they so readily embrace rock history as a means of unfolding Finn’s stories suggests that “cool” and “indie” are simply terms in the larger dialogue. This is a smoking little record.

Boys And Girls In America is one of the most instantly visceral rock records of its decade; ‘First Night’ is a pretty piano ballad for most of its duration, until it switches gears into a torrent of guitars and some of Finn’s most incisive lyrics. ‘Southtown Girls’ builds from a single a capella vocal into another tour de force, while ‘Citrus’ never raises its pulse above a simple acoustic lament (“Lost in fog and love and faithless fear/I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere). Meanwhile, the trio of rockers that open the record are all incredible, with Nicolay fluidly filling the gaps between Kubler’s propulsive riffs.

In some ways Separation Sunday is the more interesting, unique album, but when Boys And Girls In America hits full flight, it’s amazingly compelling.

The Hold Steady Stay Positive

Stay Positive is a worthy sequel to Boys and Girls in America. Lyrically it has Craig Finn’s usual themes, but it’s less dense than before, and it also feels like a love letter to rock music; they’re referencing The Clash and Hüsker Dü in the opening ‘Constructive Summer’, while Led Zeppelin are referenced on ‘Joke About Jamaica’.

Musically, The Hold Steady are exploring similar territory to Boys and Girls in America – again there’s a big piano ballad at track 5, this time with an epic guitar solo (‘Lord I’m Discouraged’), and again there’s a great song at the end with the propulsive ‘Slapped Actress’. The weaker tracks are the most sonically adventurous – ‘One For The Cutters’ rides Franz Nicolay’s harpsichord, while ‘Navy Sheets’ is built around a synth riff, but neither is particularly interesting beyond the lyrics. The bonus track ‘Two Handed Handshake’ is also noteworthy.

The Hold Steady have lost even more of their edge on Stay Positive, but the material here is mostly great.

After that virtuosic run of albums, the Hold Steady released the very good Stay Positive in 2008, capitalizing on their newfound status as the most righteous band in indie rock. (I mean, look at that title.) What happened next was, by the band’s account, a little trying. A European tour was canceled on the eve of setting out because of Kubler’s bout with pancreatitis. After putting out four albums in five years, the band found themselves pushing harder to complete out the next. “It was rushed,” Kubler says of the 2010 release, Heaven is Whenever. “Not everybody was on the same page, and I don’t think there was a lot of communication. Longtime keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose contributions were crucial to the sweeping melodrama of Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America, left during the making of Heaven is Whenever,

Four years passed between that record and Teeth Dreams—longer than it took for the first three albums to come out. In between, Finn recorded a solo album and the band added a new guitarist, Steve Selvidge, which allowed Finn to drop the pretense of being a guitar player. (During the show, he will play without one—usually, one would just dangle untouched around his neck like a dead limb.) Selvidge joined during the Heaven is Whenevertour, and helped write the music for Teeth Dreams. You can hear his influence in the guitar interplay, which is the most nuanced of the band’s career.

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Nicolay rejoined The Hold Steady in 2016. Thrashing Thru the Passion is their first album since his return, and it’s been hailed as a return to form. It clocks in at a brief thirty six minutes, and it feels less conceptually ambitious than their early records, a collection of songs rather than a grand statement. The second half of the album will be already familiar to fans, already released as advance singles.

Craig Finn had this to say, It’s our 7th LP, Thrashing Thru The Passion, is out . It’s our first album with the six piece lineup of The Hold Steady, and our first in five years! We are very proud of it. Lots of people deserve thanks for major contributions to the project.

Producer Josh Kaufman helped us a ton and made the sessions super fun. Annie Nero gave us some amazing vocals. Horns were expertly provided by Stuart Bogie, Jordan McLean, Dave Nelson and Michael Leonhart.

One of our oldest friends Dave Gardner mastered the record. Nick Hollomon created the fantastic art for this and all the preceding singles. Frenchkiss Records was kind enough to put it out into the world. We raise a glass to all of these folks. We will continue celebrating this release two more nights in Seattle, and then on to Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. Thanks for listening, Thanks for understanding. Stay Positive!

Despite the lack of thematic weight, Thrashing Thru the Passion is fast-moving and fun. Finn’s still playing with words, throwing in rapid-fire cultural references like this couplet from opener ‘Denver Haircut’. Elsewhere the band sound great, whether they’re crunching rock and roll like ‘Confusion in the Marketplace’ and ‘Star 18’, or drifting closer to Van Morrison territory than you might expect with Nicolay’s classy piano and horns of ‘Blackout Sam’.

It doesn’t feel as significant as their earlier masterpieces, but Thrashing Thru The Passion is a tight, fun record that captures more of The Hold Steady’s past glories than you might expect.

thanks Aphoristic Album