The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (4 stars)

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

(Rough Trade)


If ever a band suited a time, a place and a mood then it is The Hold Steady. Their innate ability to capture that great moment on a warm summer Friday night when everything comes together and things are just . . . right. For four albums they’ve been enjoying (mis)adventures down the alleyways, bar rooms and parking lots of boisterous, high-living anytown America that they romanticise beyond belief. Hell, even the comedowns don’t seem that rough in the land of The Hold Steady.

For this, their fourth album, they’ve refined certain elements of their foot-on-the-monitor rock’n’roll brawl, thanks in no small part to the virtuosity of guitarist Tad Kubler and moustachioed keyboard dandy Franz Nicolay, whose respective muscular riffology and nimble melodies carry Craig Finn’s urban soliloquies along on a chorus of glorious riffage.

At the heart of the throng is Finn, a masterful storyteller, whose verbosity, mania and imagery make his stories vivid, touching, sometimes even a little bit lurid. The terms literate and anthemic don’t often appear together in describe a band, less a proper rock band like this one but Finn and friends have something special here, songs that are both lyrically ingenious but deserving of the requisite number of pumping fists or blazing lighters (or I suppose in this day and age, mobiles phones) in the air at those most apposite of moments.

Stay Positive expands on the Brooklyn-based quintet’s previous three albums sonically, driving harpsichords, strings and even a banjo through their garage melange but never loses the heart of what makes them so appealing, the croon and swish of a good love song. The Ting Tings may have given us the song for summer days but The Hold Steady were always going to match it.


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