The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

18Jun08

Stay Positive

Me and my friends are like
the drums on ‘Lust for Life’

And with a wall of buzzsaw guitar, piano and 4/4 drums, so begins Stay Positive, the fourth full-length offering from The Hold Steady and the first album I’ve ever purchased off iTunes. God that sounds formal, doesn’t it? This happens everytime I start to consciously write an album review. So fuck it. Formality be damned.

I love this album. Did I expect to love this album? You bet. I loved their first three, so why should it be different now? I’ve been waiting two years for the goddamned thing. The nerve of these guys. I mean Craig Finn spews so many inspired/great/jawdroppingly awesome — nay, punch-in-the-gut, run-screaming-down-the-hall, stupendous lyrics that one could easily assume him to have an endless supply stashed away somewhere within the dusty confines of his cranial corridors, so why not a new album every six months? Keep it hopping, as such.

But maybe I’d get sick of them.

I went to your schools, I did my detention
but the walls were so grey I couldn’t pay attention
I read your gospel, it moved me tears
but I couldn’t find the hate and I couldn’t find the fear
I met your saviour, I knelt at his feet
and he took my ten bucks and he went down the street
I tried to believe all the things that you said
but my friends are all dying or already dead

Nah, probably not.

Regardless, Stay Positive marks a departure from Finn’s usual cast of characters (Holly, Charlemagne, et al.), but the subject matter remains essentially the same: fucked-up, but essentially good-hearted, normal people stumbling through their lots in life, wrestling with the demons of self-loathing, substance abuse and lost faith while clawing their way towards redemption with only the most mixed of results. Sometimes the endings aren’t happy, but Finn manages to imbue his characters with more humanity than a David Adams Richards novel.

Did I just write that? God. Sounds like a blurb off the back of some shitty supermarket paperback. So don’t listen to me. Rather… go ahead, listen to me, but for the love of someone don’t judge Stay Positive based on my opinion; unless authored by Lester Bangs, album reviews suck and this one is no exception to the rule.

All you need to know is that if you already like the Hold Steady, you will like this album. Feel free to substitute ‘like’ with ‘love’ or ‘hate’ as needed. However, it bears mention that if you hate the Hold Steady, chances are you might be a soulless piece of shit and, if that’s the case, then this album wasn’t made for you in the first place.

So make Stay Positive the soundtrack to your summer. Crank it up, raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer, because I think he might have been our only decent teacher, and thank Craig Finn & Co. for making life more tolerable, 43 minutes and 47 seconds at a time.

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One Response to “The Hold Steady – Stay Positive”

  1. 1 April

    Awesome review :]
    I love The Hold Steady. They did a show at my college with Thunderbirds Are Now! and they blew me away. I’ve been a fan ever since.


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