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4.3 out of 5 stars14
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 March 2014
I have listened to this album perhaps 100 times, which is a compliment in itself to its quality.

The good news is that the big tunes of their Boys and Girls in America are back with a vengeance. For sometime, I thought that Teeth Dreams paled in comparison to the mighty Separation Sunday and lagged someway behind the brilliant Boys and Girls in America too, feeling that the brilliant lyrics were somewhat less so and the production of Teeth Dreams made a sort of "guitar soup", weakening those crunchy Kubler riffs. Craig Finn's voice is also pushed back to make it sound like more conventional, 'popular' singers presumably. Now, I think that these stories resonate and though the startling, rebellious Christian imagery is missing, the lyrics hold together as a whole rather better than those on the last two albums. As for the 'soup' it's turned out to be energy giving, leaving the listener fired up.

Craig Finn IS up there with Patterson Hood as greatest songwriter of his generation for Separation... and Boys and Girls.... The track Big Cig would have been the best fit from Teeth Dreams on Boys and Girls in America. It's the one most like their style on those albums but misses something of the sheer presence of the Boys and Girls tracks. More specifically, the presence the Hold Steady miss is that of Franz Nicolay. Listening again to Boys and Girls In America, it's illuminating to note how many of the moments that raise the hair on the back of the neck are supplied by Nicolay's piano and organ fills. Unfortunately for Nicolay, he needs the Hold Steady more than they need him.

Part of the pleasure of a Hold Steady album comes from the 30, 40, 50 plays that bring the words and motivations through. Runner's High and On With the Business on Teeth Dreams illustrate wordplay that while not quite as blazing as before still offer many rewards, though reaching them can be helped by reading the texts.

Despite the reservations compared to their peak albums, at least two of which were genius, it's very hard not to enjoy this album, as most songs have that welcome and familiar sense of the euphoric and are infectious with ringing riffs from guitarist Tad Kubler. The draggy final couple are not the best note to end on though.
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Brooklyn stalwarts The Hold Steady once produced a great album that told us to "Stay Positive". After the rather average fare that was 2010's "Heaven is Whenever" positivity was in in short supply, a half empty glass appeared and it sadly looked that this band was running out of steam. Things had to change and on "Teeth Dreams" the bands guiding leader Craig Finn has moved even deeper into the darkness on the edge of town and in doing so largely downplayed the explicit "pop" edge within the band. The sound here is a sort of Randy Newman meets Husker Du with a large splash of Clash thrown in through the dual guitar assault of Tad Kubler and new band member Steve Selvidge. It appears to have remedied the situation as "Teeth Dreams" is the Hold Steady back on course and producing an album worth seeking out with some urgency.

The colours are pretty much nailed to the mast from the off. Opener "I hope this whole thing didn't frighten you" is an enormous blast of guitar riffery and a big Finn vocal spitting out the warning lines that "There was a side of this city I didn't want you to see/There's just these guys that I know we go back pretty deep". The pace is further quickened for "Spinners" a clear album standout. It also shows the difference between this album and its predecessors. Finn is no longer in the endless search of the catchy hook or melodic shortcut. This anthem is built on sheer power and energy and as a result "Spinners" is easily one of their best recorded moments. Throughout the tone is relentless with "The Only Thing" powering along with pace and verve. When a slight pause is introduced with the very nice rock ballad "The Ambassador", the quiet is rudely broken with the introduction of "On with business" which would bring a huge grin to the late great Phil Lynott's face. The echoes of Thin Lizzy are all over it and its pummelling power chords has led Finn to openly admit that it is his favourite on the album.

"Wait a while" is the most euphoric rocker on the album with a hint of a Joe Walsh riff. But it is the concluding "Oaks" a near nine minute closer in the tradition of "First Night" that is the albums most intriguing track starting with Finn's vision that "We dream of the views from the boats / Of mountains all covered in oaks" and ending with an extended guitar solo which actually works in an almost "Purple Rain" sense. Such songs are departures from the Hold Steady norm to such an extent that the most recognisable song of the band of old namely "Big Cig" is almost disappointing as a consequence. "Teeth Dreams" is Craig Finn's big rock record and if its not quite up there with 2006's "Boys and Girls in America" that's because the bar was set so high. All in all this record will produce a big wide smile to expose your pearly whites.
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on 28 August 2014
This is a massive grower!! Up until Heaven Is Whenever The Hold Steady could do no wrong but, aside from a couple of belters, I thought that album was a real lull. On the first couple of listens I was similarly underwhelmed by Teeth Dreams, but you simply have to give this record time. Having had it on the stereo for a fortnight I can't get enough of it, and I really do think it's one of their finest hours.

Picking out individual tracks is tough because it's a really cohesive album that works beautifully from start to finish, but On With The Business is as good as anything Finn has ever written. I agree with the previous reviewers who weren't mad on the production and, given how great The Hold Steady are live, I bet these songs will sound twice as good in the flesh, but overall I think this record is a massive return to form for a great band and I urge the doubters to give it a few more spins.
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on 14 February 2015
Something I didn't think I could ever say about a Hold Steady album - a little dull. It's not that it's bad, it's still better than many other bands out there - but maybe they're suffering from trying to reach their previous heights. There's little that grabs the soul - musically, lyrically or emotionally, and this is a band who, at their best, can make you smile, want to get drunk, read something clever, and play air guitar like a teenager falling in love with rock n roll. Just a little tired I guess.
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on 8 February 2015
I'll never begrudge a band for growing older in sound, and let's be fair these guys were no spring chickens, but I just found this record a bit on the dull side. I enjoyed all their albums up to 'Heaven is....' But just couldn't get on side of this one,nothing seemed to stand out to me. Gone were The energy filled songs, the mercurial wordplay setting the scene, putting you there. Maybe it was Franz who made this band after all.
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on 29 August 2014
Full of catchy thought provoking songs, each one delivered with real intensity by Craig Finn. These guys are truely unique and every song on this album draws your attention completely. The Hold Steady could never be background music.
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on 16 October 2014
Outstanding LP chock full of great songs and big hooks. Like Springsteen but waaaay better.
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on 16 May 2016
excellent album from top band
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on 1 May 2014
If anyone really knows THS they love just two albums. First, "Separation Sunday" from 2005 which contained the best overall Hold Steady track Stevie Nix. And then we had "Boys and Girls" one year later which, to date, still represents their finest album. Coherent too. Stay Positive and Heaven were disappointing... So, it is with great enthusiasm that I can say THS finally have their foot back on the ball and have produced and wonderful and varied album. JUST BUY IT... poetry and love.
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on 5 April 2014
The Hold Steady are the best band in the world. All their albums are growers - give this and all of their albums 10 listens, pay attention to the lyrics, and your life will never be the same.
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