The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion (Frenchkiss) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019  

The Hold Steady

Thrashing Thru the Passion

Frenchkiss

Aug 13, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


For their first album in five years, and their debut record with their "definitive" six-piece line-up, Twin City heroes The Hold Steady have collected their recently released singles series and thrown another handful of fresh new tunes into the mix to create Thrashing Thru the Passion. (C'mon, who signed off on that title?) It's a piecemeal way to approach your first full-length release in half a decade but the results are surprisingly consistent.

Always a bar band in spirit and always beloved for their purple period between Almost Killed Me in 2004 through Stay Positive in 2008, Craig Finn's crew have recently become much more a touring concern than a recording band, celebrating those glory years with sell-out three-night stands at various key cities to great acclaim.

Pointing out that they're still a creative force seems like a great idea at this point and Thrashing Thru the Passion makes a reasonable case for their continuing vitality, while ushering them, following 16 years together as a band, into the realm of beloved elders of the scene.

Kicking off with the pedestrian "Denver Haircut", anticipation fails to translate to excitement until the E Street Band excellence of the horns-heavy "Traditional Village," which sees Finn launch into his regular religion, sex and drugs-themed pattersurprisingly comforting to hearand is lifted by fantastically celebratory instrumentation and arrangement. It's pleasingly huge.

More sober tunes like "Blackout Sam" may slow the pace, but they're picture-perfect portraits of society's outsiders, a specialty of Finn's, lines like "Spent the summer wishing it was spring" and "Ingested every offering/Tried to make it interesting" are tossed off smartly, the underworld-building of the band still effective and intact.

The classic rock solos from Tad Kubler are relatively prevalent, sometimes fun, while returning prodigal keyboardist Franz Nicolay adds color and lift across the whole record. On "Entitlement Crew" we're brought back to the sounds and subject matter of 2006's Boys and Girls in America, Kubler chugging away with those sweet palm mutes and Finn observing "Here's the church, here's the steeple/I love the party favors but I hate the party people" and "You like that song too/I know that you do/I saw you mouthing all the words when you didn't know I was watching you"—the kind of beautifully observed, lachrymose detail that took the band to glory in the first instance.

Certainly there are throwaway momentsthe "Sequestered In Memphis"-lite of "Star 18" or the blandishments of "T-Shirt Tux" won't stick in the mind for longbut there's a lot here to recall past glories and offer a point of entry for newcomers looking for a band to fall in love with. Certainly the band plow similar furrows for all of their materialthematically and musicallybut if you like that sound then you're gonna like this. It's a good, solid rock recordbut whether that's a good thing or not may depend on whether you think a band that were once touted as the next Replacements are built to stake their claim as a heritage act or should have called time a decade ago. We're firmly in the former camp. (www.theholdsteady.net)   

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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