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The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Cover Artwork)

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady: Stay PositiveStay Positive (2008)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: Mrdogg45Mrdogg45
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Someday, you are going to grow old. Its happening to me. I can remember laying in my bed at eight-years-old, my bedroom door open and the hall light on, thinking about my 14th birthday. Fourteen seems like an impossible age when you are eight, a distant age in which high school and sexual develop.
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Someday, you are going to grow old.

Its happening to me. I can remember laying in my bed at eight-years-old, my bedroom door open and the hall light on, thinking about my 14th birthday. Fourteen seems like an impossible age when you are eight, a distant age in which high school and sexual development collide into one supernova of discomfort, frustration and awkwardness.

Fourteen years later, I am 22 years old with a full time job and all the responsibility of adulthood thrust upon me. The bands that I loved growing up (The Get Up Kids, Blink 182, Hot Water Music, Whippersnapper, Face to Face) have all blown up or faded away. The kids at shows look at me like a suit because I come from work, dressed in slacks. I used to think that nothing would ever mean more to me than punk music. Now I look at teens who are what I once was with equal parts nostalgia and pity.

You are going to grow old.

Its happening to the Hold Steady. After kicking around in the art-punk band Lifter Puller, vocalist Craig Finn and lead guitar player Ted Kubler got bored and started another band. This band was to be the spiritual successor to Thin Lizzy, brothers-in-arms for the wounded working class, drunken poet lauriets with slurred tongues and a razor-sharp hold on what goes on in the hearts and minds of the young between 12 and 4 a.m. Like all the best Bruce Springsteen songs, this was a band about small town escapes for kids with big city dreams. After four years of touring the country, putting out records, and leading a small scale classic rock revival, The Hold Steady have released their fourth record, Stay Positive.

You are going to grow old.

Its happening to the unnamed main character on "One For The Cutters," the song that shows the most musical growth on Stay Positive. After three albums of big guitars, swinging anthems, and 1985 keyboard melodies, the band has branched out even more, trying to push past the "bar-band" label and into different musical landscapes. "Cutters" is a harpsichord-lead organ grinder song about a college girl who parties with the townies. They don't seem much different from her, aside from the knife fights and the back-alley sex acts, all of which leave here "distant and different" when all is said and done.

You are going to grow old.

Its happening to Finn. Taking a break from narratives and character sketches, Finn turns his sharp mind and equally sharp tongue inward for the record's title track, a song about leading a scene he finds himself outgrowing. Lyrically, it's the most self-referential of all the Hold Steady's music, and that is saying something. In one track, Finn is able to name-check all of his band's records and a good number of their better tracks. While some might discount this as masturbatory (which it kind of is), it's a nice treat for fanboys and girls.

Returning once again on Stay Positive are the religious overtones, absent from the band's lenses since their brilliant '05 release Separation Sunday. God and Jesus and everyone else from that great book make appearances here; "Lord, I Am Discouraged" is a prayer for a friend dressed up as a big swinging anthem and "Both Crosses" is an abstract about a girl who can see the second coming when she's high enough.

You are going to grow old.

Its happening on Stay Positive. While their musical development is welcome and downright awesome in some spots ("One For The Cutters" and "Both Crosses," specifically), it's their bar-stomp, leave-town rock that packs the houses, and the band delivers on Stay Positive. "Constructive Summer" and "Sequestered in Memphis," the one-two punch that opens the album, are pure Hold Steady; brash classic rock anthems for a new generation of teens looking to drink their way to something better. "Lord, I am Discouraged" and "Slapped Actress" are titanic anthems on par with "First Night" and "How a Resurrection Really Feels," in their weight and tragedy.

Stay Positive is a great record, one of the best I've heard this year, but it wears it's age like an albatross, foretelling of dark times to come. Musically, it finds the band trying to push their limits, trying to expand their compositions and arrangements to be more than they are. Lyrically, it ties up all the loose ends from other albums, conceptually. For all the bravado, all the beers being drank, all the fists in the air, all the solos and keyboards and drums and smiles, it's hard to ignore the giant "Now What?" that lies just beneath the surface of the record. The Hold Steady have peaked; they are looking down from the top, unsure of what lies ahead. Stay Positive is the sobering sound of a band, once steeped in supreme confidence, unsure of the what to do next.

You are going to grow old. Stay positive.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
TSOL (March 12, 2010)

Discovered this band pretty late, as this was my introduction. Great album!

johnnyawesome (March 3, 2010)

Stay positive. words to live by. this record reminds me why I should be happy to be alive.

PtvnSux94 (December 3, 2008)

Amazing record

MN_punkmaster-skaman (September 9, 2008)

This is the Hold Steady at their finest here.

VictorIkpeba24 (August 13, 2008)

I'm 22 and this review is depressing... But now I'm going to listen to America's Favorite Pastime because whatever my age is, listening to this just makes me happy. This album is great.

treos (August 12, 2008)

when chuck palahniuk writes a review

historypeats (August 12, 2008)

I wonder how many people who read this site are older than the reviewer...

telegraphrocks (August 11, 2008)

Is that a gay logo?

RAD!

scientistrock (August 11, 2008)

Wait, am I going to grow old?

Score is for the record, this review is honestly, kinda stupid.

paulrulzdood (August 11, 2008)

you're 22 dude, you're not old, full time job or not.

this album pretty much kicks ass. A little darker than "boys and girls in america", not quite as upbeat and rockin', but the first 3 tracks are amazing, 1 and 2 because they're classic Hold Steady anthems, 3 because it shows the most growth of any track on the album (although "both crosses" shows notable experimentation with their sound as well).

I don't think they're the second coming of Christ like some critics and 'orgers do, but this certainly helps cement their standing as one of the best genre-crossing rock acts out there, appealing to Social D fans, indy scensters and emo kids as well.

Paul

LeightonESmith (August 11, 2008)

it sucks getting older
i feel like a 30 year old trapped in a 22 year old's body

jumptheshark (August 10, 2008)

Can't say I see any of what you're talking about at the end (a band that's reached the peak and unsure of what to do next). I think this is just a brilliant, brilliant album. Easily the best of the year so far and it's probably my favorite of the last 5 years or more. It really gets better with every listen.

hayman (August 10, 2008)

Great review of a gret band! You really nailed this one, although I find a 22 year old talking about getting old pretty funny. I'm 26 so i'm guessing I should probably be dead already. Bah............

Archangel (August 10, 2008)

Apeman on the Moon: "Why do people comment on bands they hate? Don't you trolls have anything better to do with your time, than post the same generic "this band sucks", "I would rather..." garbage?"

-- you, about three weeks ago

Apeman_on_the_Moon (August 9, 2008)

You are going to be pretentious

automatic333 (August 9, 2008)

Astonishing! That's the only word that really describes it. This album started as an eight but in the last couple weeks it shoot up to a 10. I'd be amazed to find another album this year that tops this. Mr. Finn should be nominated for a Pulitzer for his compelling narratives. I can't wait til they come back home to the midwest!

the_problem_with_fire (August 9, 2008)

i think i understand what the reviewer is saying here... I'm 25 right now and fortune enough to have middle class parents and a comfortable life but at th same time it's a very confusing time in my life. More so than any other time that I can remember. Although, who knows if I might be saying that same thing in 10 years...

Haven't head this album but I didn't really enjoy separation sunday all that much. that hoodrat song annoyed the shit out of me. there is some good stuff though, it just didn't connect with me like i had thought it would.

briennis (August 9, 2008)

My kingdom for a proofreader.

versus_god (August 9, 2008)

Great album.

streetwalkincheetah (August 9, 2008)

Really good album. I love that Ben Nichols is on 3 songs... if those two bands toured together, I would shit myself in utter happiness.

'Two-Handed Handshake' is the song I seem to keep going back to, which means a lot considering what a pain in the ass it is to fast-forward through two other songs to get to it.

Banger (August 9, 2008)

Ah... to be 22 again.

The good thing about being in one's mid-30s is that you no longer care what type of looks you get from kids at shows.

I am going to grow old.

Maybe I already am old. I'm no longer 22, after all.

Who cares? Enjoy life while you can, if it's at age 17 or 70.

I really like this album, especially "Constructive Summer," "Sequestered in Memphis," "One for the Cutters" and "Stay Positive."

realpunx4life (August 9, 2008)

"I am 22 years old with a full time job and all the responsibility of adulthood thrust upon me."

Wow, all of it? Good luck with that.

MsJustinChris (August 9, 2008)

"Who the fuck has a mid life crisis at 22? Life has just started for you homeboy. Get out there and get over yourself."

Agreed. I'm 23, that's where death and senility suddenly become very real.

holy_balls (August 9, 2008)

NO!

dual-a-corn (August 8, 2008)

I don't believe I'm old enough to relate to the burnout feelings this record portrays in parts of the record, but at 17 years old I do in fact experience the stuff in "Constructive Summer" and "One for the Cutters" ("We'll drink on top of the water tower", "Smoke cigs till they're sick, pack bowls till they pass out"), and given that a friend of mine died this summer (Death comes up alot in this album) just makes this my definite summer album.
Parts of this album just gives me chills
I could just imagine how much more I'll get out of this album in a few years in college and a good amount of years after that...

thegetupkid (August 8, 2008)

Good review, great album.

I still like Seperation Sunday the best, but this one is better than Boys and Girls for sure.

DFelon204409 (August 8, 2008)

There's no reason to think that band can't be an important part of one's life at 22. If you're 22, and think you're distinctively mature, then you're probably closer to a snot-nosed 14-year old than a mature "adult."

Sliced-T (August 8, 2008)

Who the fuck has a mid life crisis at 22? Life has just started for you homeboy. Get out there and get over yourself.

joemomma420666 (August 8, 2008)

ddb, i guess you live in charleston or around there if yr going sunday to see them. this show is going to fucking rule. score is for a thoughtful review and a kickass album.

boba_fett (August 8, 2008)

im 22. im not old. you're 22. you arent old. dont be so self-involved.

NewKid (August 8, 2008)

So that intro described me perfefctly. Anyone else? At 21 years old, I feel the exact same way.

Still not sure what to think of the album.
Eric

SlowOldStrange (August 8, 2008)

Eh, I like like.

mikexdude (August 8, 2008)

Oh, and this album is great.

mikexdude (August 8, 2008)

This is a good fucking review, good job!

SloaneDaley (August 8, 2008)

the standard for what counts as "indepth" has dropped dramatically if repeating "you're going to grow old, stay positive" 5 or 6 times throughout the review is considered such.

I'm obviously not refering to that part of the review exactly, that is just a simple framing technique to the review which other wise gets pretty down and dirty into the album compared to a lot of reviews.

branden (August 8, 2008)

also, score is for the phrase "dog forbid".

often times in real life conversations, i enjoy saying, "no really, i swear to dogs!"

branden (August 8, 2008)

good band, sometimes they drive me crazy with their, "hey this song is awesome, but wait, let's add another minute to the end of it" songwriting techniques though.

dev (August 8, 2008)

A fantastic review of a great, great album. I can't really find anything I don't like about either, so score is for both review and album. The guitar solo in Lord, I'm Discouraged gives me goosebumps.

fallingupwards84 (August 8, 2008)

god forbid someone try something different with their review and actually make it rather indepth

the standard for what counts as "indepth" has dropped dramatically if repeating "you're going to grow old, stay positive" 5 or 6 times throughout the review is considered such.

bwisott (August 8, 2008)

Really is a damn good CD.

Mrdogg45 (August 8, 2008)

I'm a little confused about how the Hold Steady at their peak rank only an 8, and I have to wonder how this reviewer's opinion would have changed if he had listened to the album for a little longer; to me, this album is a 10, through and through.

I should have been more clear. What I meant to say was that they band peaked with Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America. This album feels like a step down, albeit a tiny one.

Mrdogg45 (August 8, 2008)

Yeah, I've never been too good at spelling.

Sorry you didn't like my review. I guess the cool thing about punknews is that if you think I suck, you can always write your own reviews to counter it.

DFelon204409 (August 8, 2008)

score is for this guy.

dog forbid someone try something different with their review and actually make it rather indepth.


score is for the score of this guy. don't mind when people do things differently, i just wish they get done well. nothing wrong with concept and depth, but there is something wrong with poor writing, and sentimentalizing an album and hardly talking about the music.

SloaneDaley (August 8, 2008)

Score is for the review. It reads like punknews goes pitchfork. You're glorifying this band with a poopy concept behind your review when all you're doing in proving that you're too ignorant to know how to spell the word "laureate." The point of being a faux-intellectual is that nobody has a way to call you on the "faux" part. Spiritual successor to Thin Lizzie...really? More like the boring, ironic version of The Loved Ones.

score is for this guy.

dog forbid someone try something different with their review and actually make it rather indepth.

DFelon204409 (August 8, 2008)

Score is for the review. It reads like punknews goes pitchfork. You're glorifying this band with a poopy concept behind your review when all you're doing in proving that you're too ignorant to know how to spell the word "laureate." The point of being a faux-intellectual is that nobody has a way to call you on the "faux" part. Spiritual successor to Thin Lizzie...really? More like the boring, ironic version of The Loved Ones.

Chillin219 (August 8, 2008)

Oh, and my score in the below comment is a 10, in case you couldn't tell.

Chillin219 (August 8, 2008)

When I first started listening to this album, I might have ranked it as an 8 as well. Over the past month or two, though, I've consistently wanted to hear this CD again, and every time I love it more and more. "Slapped Actress" is one of the best album finales I've ever heard; "Constructive Summer" and "Sequestered In Memphis", like the reviewer mentions, is one of the best one-two punches; while the tracks in between are consistently filled in with outstanding pieces like "Magazines", "Lord, I'm Discouraged", "Yeah Sapphire", and "Joke About Jamaica".

This album grows on you like you wouldn't believe, and is easily one of the best albums I've ever heard. I'm a little confused about how the Hold Steady at their peak rank only an 8, and I have to wonder how this reviewer's opinion would have changed if he had listened to the album for a little longer; to me, this album is a 10, through and through.

ddb43 (August 8, 2008)

Job well done on the review. Job well done on the album. Going to see The Hold Steady & The Loved Ones this Sunday night.

Jesse (August 8, 2008)

One for the Cutters is about Bloomington, IN, where I currently live. The Cutters are a team that races in the Little 500 - a bike race on a track. They traditionally were a group of locals who were the scrappy underdogs against all the fraternity teams from the college.

The movie "Breaking Away" was about the Cutters - short for Stonecutters, as the surrounding area of Bloomington is a limestone deposit.

Weird to have songs written about where you live.

And in my opinion, the review was a bit too schlocky and gimmicky, but light years ahead of the crop you lot turn out on a regular basis, so there's that.

darkdouchebagdarrel (August 8, 2008)

I fucking love this album. The three bonus tracks are all amazing.

SloaneDaley (August 8, 2008)

did Max Bemis write this review?

fallingupwards84 (August 8, 2008)

the "you are going to grow old" schtick ironically gets very old about halfway through the review

mattramone (August 8, 2008)

Damn fine album and a good review.

24hourpriapism (August 8, 2008)

this is a great review, and "One For The Cutters" is such a cheesily self-referential song, but i love picking out all the little lines and references from other songs.

the album itself hasn't grown on me as much as i thought i would, but that's what i said about Boys & Girls In America, and it ended up becoming one of my favorite albums in 06.

thus_spoke_sean (August 8, 2008)

Review of the Year.

Score reflects it.

BrownTrowsers (August 8, 2008)

This site needs more reviews like this. Well done.

SloaneDaley (August 8, 2008)

only found out how awesome this band is in the past few months. great album, probably will but up there at years end.

Archangel (August 8, 2008)

Score is for:

-Slapped Actress
-This review

facetofacereunion08 (August 8, 2008)

dont like these guys.

5 stars for the bands u loved growing up and the review though

baseball (August 8, 2008)

No contest, best album released this year.

The only thing that keeps this from being a 10/10 is "Navy Sheets". Every other song is great, including the 3 bonus tracks.

I find it hard to compare their albums because they all have different themes. This is as good as anything they've done though. I agree on the question "what's next?", it can't get much better than this.

sumwon (August 8, 2008)

He uses "kinda" and "sorta" too, too much in his lyrics. I get that he is trying to use the youth's dialect, but it is annoying and not good lyricism at all.

Aside from that, this album is decent. Constructive Summer is a great song.

slymer (August 8, 2008)

I'm pretty sure it's Ben Nichols on "Magazines". Great record, but not as good as Boys and Girls or Separation Sunday.

blip (August 8, 2008)

lyrical references to 7 Seconds, Joe Strummer, Dillinger Four =
epic win
hardly any midwest references = boo

insinceredave (August 8, 2008)

I like that review, good stuff

preston (August 8, 2008)

One for the Cutters--I remember so many situations like that growing up in a small town. Who sings back-up on "Magazines?"

Problematiclogic (August 8, 2008)

Nice review.
Great album.
My favourites are 'Navy Sheets' and 'Joke About Jamaica'

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