Published Mar 21, 2014It's hard to find a more unified fan base than that of the Hold Steady. So when the band released Heaven is Whenever in 2010 (their fifth record in six years), it was hard to shake a feeling of collective disappointment. It wasn't a bad record, but it didn't hit as hard as the string of four excellent records that came before it; it sounded tired.
After a much-needed break, the Hold Steady are back with the solid Teeth Dreams. The permanent addition of Steve Selvidge as a second lead guitarist (replacing former keyboardist and moustache enthusiast Franz Nicolay) means that the new record is a guitar-driven rock'n'roll affair. Teeth Dreams opens promisingly with "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You" and "Spinners," which are sure to become favourites in future set lists.
A darker overarching theme of anxiety runs throughout the record, but Craig Finn's songwriting is still clever, funny and on point. While characters from past albums don't reappear this time around, we still get the girls that are having trouble staying positive on tracks like "Spinners" and "Wait A While," and the boys that were bored, so they started a band (plus "the waffle house waitress that asked us if we were Pink Floyd") on "Almost Everything."
Longtime fans will recognize nods to life in small town Michigan ("The Ambassador") and the prices of cigarettes ("Big Cig"), while newcomers to the band will probably be drawn in by catchy (if a little cheesy) shout-along one-liners like "Heartbreak hurts but you can dance it off." Teeth Dreams arrives to colossal expectations, but weathers them fine and showcases a band returning to form.
Read an interview with the Hold Steady's Craig Finn here. (Washington Square/Razor & Tie)