26 November 2014

The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams

This band has one of those names which I find interesting.  The Hold Steady - it just sounds like it could be dependable and will deliver the goods.  I can also say that whilst I have tried to listen to this band a number of times I have yet to find an album that makes me think more than 'meh, but what a name'.  It is not that the band is releasing awful music, they obviously have a great following; but it just never floats my boat.  However, here we are with their sixth album from the Brooklyn based band.  This album was produced by Nick Raskulinecz who produced 'Once More 'Round The Sun' by Mastodon (and cleverly linked here), as well as records by Ghost BC, Deftones and Alice In Chains - all of which have been fantastic.  So his involvement with the record has raised my interest in this record.  When it was released, it did come out to some decent if not glowing reviews; the words workman like, blue collar and half spoken narratives were thrown around a lot with this band.  Now when it comes to storytelling rock and you are from North East America, you better hope your surname is Springsteen; otherwise some people will not give you the time of day.  Well, not here at ATTIWLTMOWOS towers - everyone get s a fair shot and now it is time to see if The Hold Steady have released a good record.

Starting off the album is "I Hope The Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You", not the longest title I have ever had to type out yet it seems to be one of the strangest outside of a country and western song.  With a start very reminiscent of The Replacements, you are opened to one of those Eastern Seaboard of America music stories about either an eventful period in a relationship, or the end of the world in bunkers. The story telling element of the song is incredibly important from the outset of the album, the driving force of this number and with repeated listens you find the hidden charms of the song and it is more than just a Replacements-esque number.  The second song is called "Spinners" this song does not bounce a million miles away from "I Hope...", it has an interesting beginning which seems to be a bit heavy and aggressive for the album, but this then gives way to something that shares similarities with bands such as Counting Crows and Train.  The punk story tellers have made a number that can have people either bouncing to the sound or listening to the story and trying to decipher the lyrics for some sort of meaning.  "The Only Thing" is more Springsteen than Social Distortion in terms of music, but it has a similar emotional output to both artists.  As story telling songs go, it is very emotive and passionate.  Depending on your musical leanings it will either give you euphoria or sound a bit dull.  For me, it is a little bit of both if I am honest; the song is played really well, but it does not give me an emotional buzz which is essential with this type of band/song.  The fourth track is the slow and delicate song known as “The Ambassador”; this has more country leanings on it than anything else and could have easily been done by Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams and Eric Church.  That broken hearted Americana anthem is a tricky beast to tame; this is one of the better examples of this type of song.  It is much better than “The Only Thing”, it actually has that emotional draw that could make this type of song dull and tired if it was missing. 

“On With The Business” in comparison to the last few numbers is a galloping anthem of reckless abandon.  It is another tale of disenchantment, wishing for better than you have and broken views of the world with a disjointed sense of entitlement and lack of equality.  It is a decent number with a good message at its heart, but once again the emotional attachment is missing for me.  Next is “Big Cig” and I am beginning to see a pattern with this album as this song has a great ball of energy in it, but for me this sort of band should be connecting with me in different ways and there is nothing happening here which is making me excited or interested in hearing “Big Cig” – sorry, but it is not working for me.  “Wait A While” is for once an exception to the rule I have been forming with this band.  It connects with me on many levels, the lyrics (which on all of the numbers are the most interesting thing) are intense, the music is really interesting and the combination makes me excited in a way that this sort of tune always should, it is one of the stand out numbers on this album.  “Runner’s High” is the eight track on offer here and whilst not as instant with me as “Wait A While”, it does have a charm about it that feels like it could be a grower.  The music is very much like a slowed down Husker Du and the lyrics an interest mix for me as well; it takes its time to show its charms, it will probably be a favourite in years to come and for now it is just ok.

“Almost Everything” will have fans of Toad The Wet Sprocket up in raptor as it feels like a number that would have been perfect in their sets.  It is an acoustic drawn number that tells the story of a couple of people who are skirting around each other.  This song tries too hard to pull on the heart string, so it falls a little flat for me; it is well played, but too obvious a song to play.  Ending the album is “Oaks” and this takes the slow, brooding route as well and it is slowing down the album once more; but unlike “Almost Everything” it makes for an interesting list and the feeling of a grower is very much the overall tone of this song.  It is also the longest song of the album and the last four minutes are a glorious chorus that will make for great number.  Technically, this is the end track and it is followed on by bonus track “Saddle Shoes”; normally I do not bother with bonus tracks when reviewing but I want to make an exception.  This song is brilliant, it is a great example of the band when everything gels together and would have been better than over half of their numbers on this album – tad annoying, but there you go.

This album is a little frustrating as I should be loving it straight away, it has a lot of things I love about music, emotions, storytelling and that sort of music that reminds me of my early twenties.  The quality of the band is really good, it makes sense that these guys are so popular with their audience; but whilst it was making a better impression upon each listen, it is still an album which is a little too average for me.  In a few years time, I might end up loving it as the band sound really impressive on this record.  Until then (and the score will forever be the same here), it is not quite my type of thing.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track – Oaks

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Hold Steady website here

You can hear the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for the album to be here on Deezer

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