The Hold Steady: The Price of Progress (Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Hold Steady

The Price of Progress

Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers

Mar 31, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

For their ninth studio album, The Hold Steady are in peak form on The Price of Progress as they celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary in 2023. With the return of keyboard player Franz Nicolay in 2016, the six current members on these recordings make up their longest-running lineup since The Hold Steady’s first show in 2003.

“Grand Junction” gets the album off to an entirely appropriate start for a song by The Hold Steady, with singer/guitarist Craig Finn presenting characters handling an unwieldy reality and considering their plight over an alternately stirring/epic backdrop. The band is at their best on “Sideways Skull,” with Finn dropping a wildly entertaining narrative that the listener will need to hang on for dear life to follow as his fellow musicians tear along behind him. The song’s high tempo adds to a sense that Finn’s lyrical protagonists are barreling toward inescapable disaster, which is always possible in Hold Steady songs.

Finn approaches his lyrics with an author’s intimacy that can be engrossingly detailed and, at times, amusingly informed. “Carlos had been distant since his sister went to Denver with that dickhead,” he notes in “Carlos is Crying.” “The dude claimed he was a carpenter, but no one ever saw him pound a nail.” For the cinematic sweep of “Understudies,” a setting of horns, strings, and an organ hinting at foreboding follow Finn. “In the window of the storefront there’s a mugshot for a manhunt, and those cakes all decorated with cartoons,” he sings, before the band moves on to a sound that’s pure ’70s soundtrack. The track underscores how, after 20 years, The Hold Steady is hardly a restrictive creative framework, while The Price of Progress reminds longtime fans why they continue to look forward to each album. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 3/10


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