CD Review: The Hold Steady


The Hold Steady
Stay Positive
Vagrant
By David Chiu

The punkish opener “Constructive Summer” gets the Brooklyn’s band’s latest Stay Positive off to a rollicking start. With its piano, slashing guitar and Craig Finn’s husky voice, this anthemic number definitely feels like hearing a tune from certain famous New Jersey rocker…and I’m not talking about Bon Jovi. Anyone new to the Hold Steady like I am can pick up elements of soul and classic rock from this band, and yet still recognize some alternative/modern rock qualities that hipsters and punkers can relate to. While grounded in heavy guitar rock, Stay Positive offers some stylistic divergences: “Sequestered in Memphis” recalls a bit of Stax through its organ playing and horns; the New Wave-ish “Navy Sheets” recalls vintage Cars, and “One for the Cutters”… well, perhaps a rockin’ version of Bach thanks to the use harpsichord, or the clavinet? The impressionist, storytelling lyrics appear cryptic and yet a mellow folkish ballad song called “Lord I’m Discouraged” sounds as poignant as it is resonant (the spiraling guitar solo is amazing).

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