Hold Steady, The - album review (5 stars)

The Hold Steady

Boys and Girls of America (Vagrant)

ROCK’N’ROLL

Sometimes, a band provides one of those kind of songs that always stay in your heart and record collection forever. The Hold Steady have an old song of theirs called ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’, a throttling, acerbic bombast of a rock song that tells of sorry misadventures of one man and his denial that he ever had carnal knowledge of the song title’s conniving skank. From first listen it was apparent this one was going to end up filed under ‘cherished classic’ such is its misanthropic magic. It’s the story and soundtrack to your favourite teen movie you never quite managed to star in as articulated by a goofy bunch of thirtysomething Minnesotans.

That was way back in the depths of 2005, but somehow they have repeated this sensation another half dozen times on this, the band’s third long player.

Think The Replacements duelling with Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band fronted by the mouthy geek at the back of the class who always had the last word. That is to say The Hold Steady are a rock’n’roll band in the most honest, invigorating and unpretentious sense. Frontman Craig Finn lets spawling narratives unfold in his songs, whether it’s the fleeting comedown romance of ‘Chill Out Tent’, the bender driven lunacy of ‘Chips Ahoy!’ or the tragic burn out of ‘First Night’, the latter being just plain, old fashioned, heartbreakingly tremendous.

The Hold Steady are incurable romantics. Romantics in love with love, ill fated or otherwise and in love with rock’n’roll in its truest, and - to be fair - most American way. And this damn fine record makes it easy to hear why. Prepare to swoon.

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