Hold Steady

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Lifter Puller: Lifter Puller, 6/10
Lifter Puller: Half Dead and Dynamite (1997), 6/10
Lifter Puller: Fiestas & Fiascos (2000), 6.5/10
Almost Killed Me (2004), 6.5/10
Separation Sunday (2005), 6.5/10
Boys And Girls In America (2006), 6.5/10
Stay Positive (2008) , 6/10
Heaven Is Whenever (2010), 6/10
Teeth Dreams (2014), 4/10
Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019), 4/10

The Hold Steady were formed in New York by vocalist Craig Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler, two former members of a Minneapolis band, the Lifter Puller, that had released Lifter Puller (Skene, 1997), Half Dead and Dynamite (No Alternative, 1997) and the ambitious quasi-concept Fiestas & Fiascos (2000).

The duo enrolled drummer Judd Counsell and bassist Galen Polivka, and coined an old-fashioned, infectious mix of hard-rock, roots-rock and power-pop drenched in semi-biogaphical themes of ordinary blue-collar life, like a lighter version of Bruce Springsteen or a harder version of Tom Petty. The gems of Almost Killed Me (French Kiss, 2004) were the grittier songs: Positive Jam, The Swish and Hostile Mass.

Separation Sunday (2005), basically a rock opera centered around a trio of characters from a provincial town (Charlemagne, Gideon and Holly), marked Finn's transition to adulthood without reneging any of his street poetry. Running the gamut from the anthemic Hornets to the lyrical How a Resurrection Really Feels, the songs painted a fresco of disillusionment, dejection and acceptance.

Boys And Girls In America (Vagrant, 2006) revisits Finn's personal mythology (including the characters from the previous album) while anchoring it to solid hooks and riffs. His epic tales of frustrated suburban kids (Stuck Between Stations, Party Pit, You Can Make Him Like You) evoke the Replacements.

Stay Positive (2008), that added horns and harpsichord, excels at the rockers. Constructive Summer, Slapped Actress, Stay Positive, Sequestered in Memphis evoke Bruce Springsteen at his most bombastic and rousing.

Franz Nicolay left the band and debuted as a solo artist with Major General (Fistolo, 2009).

A Positive Rage (Vagrant, 2009) is two-disc (CD plus DVD) live album and a documentary.

Hold Steady's multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay debuted solo with the mediocre Major General (2009).

Heaven Is Whenever (2010), the first Hold Steady album without Franz Nicolay, was, first and foremost, an impeccable sonic production. As it is often the case, the slick baroque production is necessary to hide the dearth of interesting music. Surprisingly, the addition of guitarist Steve Selvidge to Tad Kubler doesn't yield a stronger guitar sound, but almost the opposite.

Craig Finn's first solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes (Vagrant, 2012) is a collection of pensive cinematic vignettes. It was followed by three more solo albums before the band released its seventh album, Thrashing Thru the Passion (2019), a mediocre collection of five new songs and five of the nine singles released in 2017-19, an album mainly notable for the return of keyboardist Franz Nicolay. In between the band had released Teeth Dreams (2014), produced by Nick Raskulinecz, with I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You and On With the Business, but hardly related to the sound that made the band a legend to its fans. The last memorable guitar riff that Tad Kubler put on record dated back to Stay Positive (2008).

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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