The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever (Cover Artwork)

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady: Heaven Is WheneverHeaven Is Whenever (2010)
Vagrant Records

Reviewer Rating: 2
User Rating:

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

I miss Franz Nicolay. That's the thought I keep ending up at every time I find fault with Heaven Is Whenever, the first Hold Steady album (fifth overall) to be released without the singer/pianist since the group's 2004 debut, Almost Killed Me. Nicolay announced his departure from the band earlier th.
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I miss Franz Nicolay. That's the thought I keep ending up at every time I find fault with Heaven Is Whenever, the first Hold Steady album (fifth overall) to be released without the singer/pianist since the group's 2004 debut, Almost Killed Me. Nicolay announced his departure from the band earlier this year. I try to fight this notion--Craig Finn is the main songwriter anyway! World/Inferno Friendship Society pianist Dan Neustadt handled the keys! Nicolay's solo album wasn't even all that great!--but I keep arriving at the same conclusion: This record needs more screaming, mustachioed guys.

Exhibit A: The music and vocals sound a little empty. It's as if the band decided not to bother replacing Nicolay at all. The Hold Steady certainly uses a lot of chunky guitar riffs, but it was Nicolay's piano that defined tunes like "Stevie Nix" and "Constructive Summer." Even with Neustadt handling the ivories, the piano is noticeably absent from a lot of these new songs. Same goes for the backup vox. Answer me this, rest of the world, which is more fun to sing: the chorus to "Chips Ahoy!", or the backing "whoa"s? Choose wisely. Corinne Caouette and Roman Kuebler contribute backing vocals, but they can't replace Franz.

Exhibit B: The songs are too slow. It's like Nicolay took all the fun with him when he left. Heaven Is Whenever lacks urgency. Part of it comes from a shift in Finn's songwriting style. His lyrics are slightly more removed--you won't find Holly or Charlemagne here--and his singing sounds oddly uninterested. It's like he's going through the motions, something that the line "If money didn't matter then I might tell you something new" from "Soft in the Center" may or may not hint at. Quoth NOFX, "The desperation's gone." I know Finn likes singing about Youth of Today and (early) 7 Seconds, but Nicolay is the one with more punk cred, thanks to his work with W/IFS and Dresden Dolls. Sure, Major General was like 50 percent power ballads, but I can't help but feel Nicolay would make sure fists were being adequately pumped during Heaven's recording sessions.

Exhibit C: It's a little overproduced. Yeah, I said it.

Heaven is the worst Hold Steady album. Yeah, it's better than most of the music that's going to come out this year, and some of the songs, like "Our Whole Lives" and "Rock Problems," show that old spark. But it's also indicative that the group's formula--classic rock + literate lyrics worthy of Elvis Costello or John Darnielle--may be used up. Maybe it's just a hiccup--Costello dropped a few middling albums between Get Happy!! and King of America--or a transitional period into a slower, more contemplative period. Maybe it's the beginning of the end for one of America's best rock ‚??n' roll bands. I don't have the answers. Help me, Franz Nicolay. You're my only hope.


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundAlkaline Trio - This AddictionThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsAgainst Me! - White CrossesThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Flatliners - CavalcadeJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyThe Hold Steady - Stay PositiveIron Chic - Not Like This

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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.
keithybobeefy (April 21, 2011)

I was listening to this album last night and I was kind of blown away by it.

To me The Hold Steady are a band that has never released any bad music. Does this have the same fist pumping power as some of their previous material, no. But there are certainly songs that make you throw up your fists.

Craig Finn is still one of the best story tellers in music today (along with John Darnielle). That is still shown on this record. And "The Weekenders" is probably the best song of 2010.

mrdogg45 (June 13, 2010)

I agree with Jelone.

That being said, even at their worst, the Hold Steady still make better music than almost every other active rock band.

newwavecrashing (June 2, 2010)

if this album was put out by another band, it probably wouldn't even have been reviewed

losergeek (June 1, 2010)

The review is exactly right - this is the worst hold steady album (if you still don't think so, go listen to everything else and try to argue it with ta straight face), however it is still better than almost everything else that will be released this year. That's why I don't agree with the actual star rating - it's not fair to penalize an album just because the band has too much potential. Give them 3.5 stars with an asterix for disapointment or something to acknowledge the fact that it's still an 'better than average' album.

coldwaraaron (June 1, 2010)

4 stars for the "rock and roll problems" song. This album is fun.

drewshaw (May 31, 2010)

even at their worst they are still better than most

encorp (May 14, 2010)

The album is really great. No complaints on the review; it was seemingly honest.

Arguing about punk cred on the internet always amazes me.. talk about a paradox.

I just want everyone to know that I think that something CAN travel FASTER than the speed of light.

SamBeckett (May 12, 2010)

"hurricane j" equals my thoughts most of the day. this album was real good. yeah, a little slower than the other ones, but you can only write songs the kids can jump to for so long. especially when you are about 40 years old. don't trust the reviewer. he sucks just as much as the rest of them around here.

misterspike (May 12, 2010)

Who thought The Hold Steady could be so polarizing?

There is no "Stuck Between Stations" on this album, and that bothers me.

slymer (May 12, 2010)

the review is fine. It's just wrong

joe_weasel (May 12, 2010)

good review..

and good album.

look at me not getting offended at somebody's differing opinion. nuts, right?

sporkandfoon (May 12, 2010)

Yeah, this review is pretty much totally completely wrong. This album rocks. The end.

It is absurd to suggest that the primary singer/songwriter of Lifter Puller has any lack of "punk credibility." Though The Hold Steady is certainly no Lifter Puller, Franz Nicolay has never done anything even worth mentioning in the same sentence as Lifter Puller.

dreeeamweaver (May 12, 2010)

Jelone must've taken about 2 hours to write that review, what with one hand on the keyboard and the other giving Franz an HJ.

Jelone (May 11, 2010)

D Boon - My blast on the title, but you'd have to be rimming Costello himself to put Almost Blue on par with Blood and Chocolate or Armed Forces. Also, I didn't call that period terrible, just middling. Do I like Trust? Yeah. Is it in my top 5? Fuck no, and you're a damn fool for thinking otherwise. I can't believe someone on the Internet is overreacting!

Also for the record, I don't pirate music. I either pay for it myself or I receive promos. In this case, I paid for a CD copy of the album. Using cash.

mikeflynn (May 11, 2010)

The songs are too slow? Give me a break; horrible review.

dreeeamweaver (May 11, 2010)

also, that was my hand in the album cover.

dreeeamweaver (May 11, 2010)

essentially, this review is just a blowhard commentary about how bad the reviewer wants to bang franz nicolay. somebody please write a real review, or i'm going to have to keep flooding this thread with science and commentary about the film "Powder."

SamBeckett (May 11, 2010)

franz is a dork

Blackjaw_ (May 11, 2010)

"It seems that time travel has captured the imaginations of people since time began."

What a horrible opening sentence.

keithybobeefy (May 11, 2010)

Do I miss Franz? I guess. Did I really notice is absence on this record? No. I

think if listened to in the context of their other albums, Heaven Is Whenever is perfect. As the reviewer of Stay Positive said, the Hold Steady grew up on that record. In response to growing up, we have Heaven Is Whenever. A record that, to me, is the thought pattern of someone who has grown up and is reflecting back on the things they've done in a deeper more personal way then we saw on Stay Positive.

It's a record that grows on you. I listened to it and liked it. I listened to it again and I really liked it. The third time I listened to it I was sure this record will be one of the best released this year. Every following listen just cements my opinion a little bit more.

FaithIsForFools (May 11, 2010)

Franz left The Hold Steady? I seriously didn't know that. He's definitely a talented motherfucker.

Anyway, I can't score this, because I've heard none of it, but so much of their older material is kind of boring... a few kick-ass tunes, but overall people need to put their dicks away.

d_boons_ghost (May 11, 2010)

"Maybe it‚??s just a hiccup--Costello dropped a few middling albums between Get Happy!! and King of England..."

Oh, you mean the period that included TERRIBLE albums such as "Imperial Bedroom," "Almost Blue" and "Trust"? Yeah, those are all just awful, definitely not classics at all. And it's "King Of America," numbnuts.

dreeeamweaver (May 11, 2010)

It seems that time travel has captured the imaginations of people since time began. Einstein‚??s Special Theory of Relativity speculated that traveling close to the speed of light would physically alter time by dilating it. This means that there should be places where time slows down, and others where time speeds up. Discovery News reports that Hawking recently expanded on this theory, outlining several theoretically realistic ideas for traveling through time.

Hawking almost perfectly explains his theories in a letter to the Daily Mail in a way that non-cosmologists can understand. He encourages people to think of time as dimension just like width, height and length. Just as when you travel in a car, you can go forward, right or left. The fourth dimension would be time. And all around us are wormholes that could act as a time tunnel.

As Hawking writes, ‚??Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times.‚?Ě The time tunnels are too small for people to travel through, but Hawking and others believe that someday a wormhole could be widened for person or ship to travel through to the future.

Hawking points out that travel backward in time may be impossible due to the cause and effect theory. (For example, if you travel backward and prevent your birth, how could you have ever been born?) Further, Hawking suspects that radiation might collapse the wormholes, rendering them useless anyway.

Another way to time travel rides on the ‚??time as a river‚?Ě theory. As Einstein proposed before him, there are places where time moves faster and where time moves slower. It depends if there are things that drag on space, much like rocks in a moving river. The Earth itself drags on space, meaning time moves slower on Earth than it does in space. Hawking points out that the Global Positioning System satellite network in space must be adjusted because of this.

Further, Hawking claims black holes may be the key to time travel. He asks us to imagine a spaceship orbiting a super-massive black hole some 26,000 miles away. To us, it would just look like the ship makes one orbit every 16 minutes. As Hawking writes, ‚??A black hole ‚?¶ has a dramatic effect on time, slowing it down far more than anything else in the galaxy. That makes it a natural time machine. ‚?¶ But for the brave people on board, close to this massive object, time would be slowed down. For every 16-minute orbit, they‚??d only experience eight minutes of time.‚?Ě

Hawking reminds us that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and that time will always slow down right before reaching this speed. Therefore, if we had a ship that could travel near the speed of light, we could also travel in time.

Chewy_Almighty (May 11, 2010)

the biggest problem i've had with the new album is that it seems like they recorded the drums in a way that they seem like a separate part of the rest of the music....like the kick drum recording on that one Samiam album...Soar, maybe?

Scruffy (May 11, 2010)

I've always respected this band, but other than one song on each album I've heard ("Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Chips Ahoy!" and "Constructive Summer") I've never really been entertained by them. I always expected someday they'd put out an album that'd grab me.

That's this album. The slow songs are heartbreaking and captivating, and the fast ones are so guitar-heavy it's ridiculous. I'm always sad for a second or two when one of the songs ends, until I remember how awesome the next one is. It was a grower, but, damn, this band really perfected every aspect of their sound.

thepopeofchili-town (May 11, 2010)

I know music is subjective and all that, but this review is WRONG!

Great record, don't miss the keys at all.

Rastid (May 11, 2010)

spot on review. nice job.

TheMike (May 11, 2010)

Yeah, the production is crystal clear and heavy. I can see why people would call it overproduced, but I think the sound is splendid.

R3vengeTherapy (May 11, 2010)

If it sounds 'quiet and fuzzy', then you probably downloaded a shitty leaked copy of the album.

Gotcha, good to know! I was planning on getting a legit version as soon as I found out whether it sounded better than what I had or not.

TheMike (May 11, 2010)

A little uneven, but the highlights are incredible.

slymer (May 11, 2010)

If it sounds 'quiet and fuzzy', then you probably downloaded a shitty leaked copy of the album. Thats what I did. Once i bought the CD and ripped it to my PC it sounded way better. I picked up the vinyl as well.

R3vengeTherapy (May 11, 2010)

Overproduced? Have been listening to a bad rip of this thing? It seems quiet and fuzzy. It's much quieter than most of the other stuff I've been listening to, and I've been meaning to ask if anyone else has felt the same about it.

I like the record, and I think 2 stars is far too harsh, but whatever. "Soft In the Center" and "Hurricane J" fucking rule and the reviewer's score has no bearing me.

Anarchypants (May 11, 2010)

2 Stars my ass - this album is fantastic.

Michael_Berryman (May 11, 2010)

crazy talk, you're crazy, Jelone...GET OFF THE ROAD!

mmmburritos (May 11, 2010)

The slow songs do suck, I saw The Hold Steady about a month ago and they played something like 8 songs off this album and it was a total snoozefest. Good time for a piss break or to grab a new drink at least. The difference in crowd reaction to the new songs vs anything old was amazing. Songs like The Weekenders and Hurricane J got an OK reaction, and I thought Rock Problems was great live, but the rest of the songs were just plain boring live.

clashrock11 (May 11, 2010)

I agree w/the majority of comments in this review. I still like it, and think that SOME of the criticisms are a little harsh, but as big a fan as I am, I still only give it 3 outta 5. But, like the reviewer said, still better than most of the stuff that'll come out this year.

RadToTheMax (May 11, 2010)

This is a big, dumb guitar rock album. It works really good at being just that.

wearestillalive (May 11, 2010)

Franz is touring on keys with Against Me! this summer, maybe he'll join full time and make them good again?

mattramone (May 11, 2010)

Wait, how do the Dresden Dolls give you punk cred? I didn't know fat crybaby goth girls who don't own razors upped the punx.

Babrook (May 11, 2010)

Band is different without Franz, but that doesn't stop this album from being great and The Weekenders from being one of their best tunes.

Serious album of the year contender for me.

tris (May 11, 2010)

nice one for having the balls to call a spade a spade: this album is utter bunk!

sounds like counting crows trying to write u2 songs

red_eye_inc (May 11, 2010)

I am with you on all points. The riffs are weak and there are too many slow songs. They suck at slow songs.

kidgotham (May 11, 2010)

This album is fantasitc. The only song I don't love is "The Smidge".
I miss Franz too, but this album hardly suffers from his departure. The songs are still great.

slymer (May 11, 2010)

The slow songs are actually the best songs on this album. 'The Sweet Part of the City' and 'We Can Get Together' are both great. I think this album just needs to grow on you. I've listened to it for about a week straight and I love it now.

csav12 (May 11, 2010)

Did Franz write this review?

I loved it, this will probably be my most-played album this summer.

misterspike (May 11, 2010)

Good review. I had exactly the same "Where's Franz?" kind of feeling after my first listen, as well. Maybe Craig Finn, et al. can
start growing moustaches. Can't hurt.

MN_DrNick (May 11, 2010)

Woah woah woah!! Yeah the band sounds different without Franz Nicolay, but I really liked this after about three listens.

XchinatownX (May 11, 2010)

A bad album from a good album. Oh well, they put out a new one about every 16 months, so it's not a big disappointment and the wait for the next one won't be too long.

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