It's pretty straight-forward guys. The first twenty seconds lays it out:
"Me and my friends are like the drums on "Lust for Life”/
We pound it out on floor toms/
Our psalms are sing-along songs"
What more do you need to know, other than Craig Finn and "his friends" have pulled it off again. New classic rock.
Craig Finn, after the whole Lifter-Puller thing didn't work out, went on along with Galen Polivka (the bassist) to form a little band called the Hold Steady, which went from small time Twin-City based band to being Blender group of the year in 2006, and gracing the cover of the Village Voice, the first rock band to do so in fifteen years. But enough history, because even though this record is steeped in nostalgic classic rock layers, it's new and its branded with everything I love about the Hold Steady. It's not easy being accused of being "the best bar band in America." And yet, in the indeterminable mix of young, smart-alec kids with computers and beat doctors, isn't it nice to hear an organ pop out in a song about Texas and Memphis, with lines reminiscient of great American rock icons? At worst, this album is the soundtrack to your cross-country roadtrip, at best? An instant throwback forward-thinking classic.
Finn's half-melodic speak-singing is perfectly suited to the bands shredding, especially on story based tracks like "One For The Cutters." The phrase "townie" sounds as natural out of his mouth as the flow of the story, the jingle of a harpsichord perfectly shading the dark tones of the narrative. The story telling is as much a part of the bands core as Finn's iconic voice, and the combination of the two is honestly what makes this record worth it.
But Finn isn't the only notable element, and his speech is in no way limiting the band from expanding into new sounds and frontiers. The whirlitzer based riff of "Navy Sheets?" The banjo in "Both Crosses?" The aforementioned Harpsichord? The group is going in all directions musically, and the album reflects the change of pace; the music feels more expansive and more reflective of the grandoise story-telling of Finn. A proper balance is struck.
At the end of the day, The Hold Steady never fail to impress us with their use of sounds we've heard before, twisting tunes already in our ear into something new and desirable, and maybe even iconic. It's easy to "Stay Positive" on this one. -joe puglisi