The Hold Steady Stay Positive Review

Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Their love is aged and their stories are dusty and crusted, but Stay Positive tastes...

Al Spicer 2008

There's something reassuring and satisfying about mature, confident rock, played by musicians who know their instruments and have seen a few of life's ups and downs. More an acquired adult taste than the easy appeal of nursery food, there's a grown-up flavour to The Hold Steady's latest set; these guys have circled the block once or twice in their time, and their girlfriends have wrinkles, chronic complaints and a tendency to drink too much. Their love is aged and their stories are dusty and crusted, but Stay Positive tastes all the better for it.

The band's skill and mutual understanding allows them to play around with awkward time signatures and stumbling rhythms; it creates a richer rock 'n' roll stew, but the recipe doesn't always come out right. At times it all gets a bit Pere Ubu and might be liable to scare off the more close-eared listener. But in the main, whether they're kicking straight-up four to the floor, or messing with an old baroque dance step, they generally come out on top.

Craig Finn's vocals are The Hold Steady's most easily recognised feature, and tower above the maelstrom of music swirling around them. Finn declaims bitter truths and prophecies in his lyrics, firing out slogans and catchy choruses alike with the same air of unsurprised anger, while the band goes a little bit E Street Band (on the title track) or Husker Du (on Magazines) as the mood takes them.

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