In their brief history, The Hold Steady have gone the way of My Morning Jacket or Drive By Truckers, riff heavy rock that critics love to love. With Stay Positive, their fourth album in five years, we get more of the same riff heavy bar rock from the band full of ordinary looking guys (except that moustached keyboard player).
Stay Positive is supposed to represent the creative peak of a band that’s earned more Springsteen comparisons than Mellencamp. Guitarist Tad Kubler even told Rolling Stone– "There are some bands that do five records that all sound similar. We’ve tried to avoid that." Unfortunately, except the talk boxes, harpisichords, mandolins and horns, this is still the same Hold Steady.
Frontman Craig Finn knows a good song that begins with “she” as he sing-talks of “parties” and his storytelling remains consistent of a bathroom stall that hasn’t been brushed in a quarter decade. Adolescence drinking on water towers (“Constructive Summer”) tales of teens growing up (“Joke About Jamaica”) and tales of when those teens eventually have kids of their own (“Stay Postive”) form the theme of Stay Positive.
Finn pays homage to townies on “One For The Cutters,” another lingering theme in the Hold Steady’s repertoire of local bar rock that never changes. “Navy Sheets” toys around with a Cars’ synth riff, and Tad Kubler supplies the muscular factory riff (“Yeah Sapphire”). And although “Sequestered in Memphis” raises the thematic fire of the band, there are ballads
(“Lord, I’m Discouraged”) and low key rumbles (“Both Crosses”) that never take off next to the sing along anthems (“Stay Positive”).
The Hold Steady make like the townies they sing about on Stay Postive, no matter how hard they want to change, sometimes they still sound and look the same.
A limited edition packaging of Stay Postive (50,000) includes 3 bonus tracks:
1.Ask Her for Adderall
3. Two Handed Handshake