The Hold Steady – Thrashing Thru the Passion
The Hold Steady's seventh album collects five new songs recorded this year alongside five digitally-released singles the band put out sporadically between 2017 and 2019
There's a point where, to become truly great, a band must transcend their influences. You can become a great live band over time, like The Hold Steady, but to join the top table of record-makers takes something a little more startling. Craig Finn and co certainly have that originality in them – but they've taken a while to get it on wax. Has it happened this time? It's hard to tell.
This dichotomy is at the heart of the brilliant and beguiling tale of Thrashing Thru the Passion's standout song, Blackout Sam. It's a belter, all Dexys horns, widescreen E Street expanse and Clash-esque passion. The tale Finn tells is typically taut and the music twists and turns through numerous tangents until it all comes crashing down amongst excitement and guitars. But you can hear all too easily the influence of It's Too Late to Stop Now, The Replacements and everybody else already mentioned. Is great taste enough to make a great record?
Denver Haircut is a fan-friendly Hold Steady opener, Entitlement Crew a melodic sideways glance with guitars and Dire Straits organ sounds ('I wasn't all that into it / But there was nothing I could do') while The Stove & The Toaster's brilliant bombast brings Travelling Wilbury's Tweeter and the Monkey Man right up to date. All three ride waves of crunching electric guitars with in-the-pocket support from four-to-the-floor drums, bass and hard-hitting piano chords. It's a sound that serves The Hold Steady so well in the live arena – but by the time you get to T-Shirt Tux's Boomtown Rats strut, it's tough to tell whether you don't like Mondays or are just sick of the meat and potatoes on offer that day.
Thrashing Thru the Passion is a good album of fine songs, great lyrics and passionate playing – but ending with the playing-at-being-The-Clash Confusion In the Marketplace, after various nods to Dexys, E Street Band, Van Morrison, The Replacements, Boomtown Rats and more, its staccato block chords might be one homage too many. While it's been great fun finding out who The Hold Steady love, it's now time we found out how to love them, too.
Listen to: Blackout Sam, Entitlement Crew, The Stove & The Toaster