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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hold Steady - Randy Newman meets Husker Du., 24 Mar 2014
This review is from: Teeth Dreams (Audio CD)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Mar 2014 08:51:43 GMT
The Wolf says:
Hi RoB

As a Randy Newman AND Husker Du fan I guess I should be listening to this!

Regards

The Wolf

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Mar 2014 12:16:13 BDT
I've tried many times to like this new Hold Steady record but it just isn't clicking with me. I think the band really hit a creative peak with 'Separation Sunday', 'Boys And Girls In America' & 'Stay Positive' and have struggled ever since.

Both 'Heaven Is Whenever' and 'Teeth Dreams' have standout moments that could feasibly feature on any future Hold Steady best of (I've always had a particular soft spot for 'Hurricane J' from 'Heaven Is Whenever') but overall feel too much like treading water releases to me.

For a (in my opinion) better alternative may I recommend the new LP from The Men, 'Tomorrow's Hits'. An album brimming with outstanding rock & roll numbers. That one has been permanently glued to my stereo for the past fortnight.
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