The Hold Steady
Stay Positive


3.5
great

Review

by Kiran EMERITUS
September 26th, 2008 | 38 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist


In a music scene largely dominated by musicians who seem to be getting younger and younger, it’s got to be weird being Craig Finn. In less than 3 years, The Hold Steady front man will be 40, an old man compared to most of his musical peers. You can tell the difference as well. Moving onto topics such as aging and a far less romantic look on love, The Hold Steady have shifted from singing songs about drugs and wasted youth and instead developed a sense of the bigger picture; what happens after you’ve let your glory years pass you by in a swirl of drugs and booze?

Stay Positive draws heavily on their last albums direction and they make no attempt to hide that. The catchy piano melodies, the power chord riffs, the huge anthemic choruses, the backing gang shouts; they’re all present here except with the added touch of trumpets, saxophones, guitar solos and the improved singing of Craig Finn (who’s been taking lessons) to add the extra drive to it. This is the same solid rock ‘n’ roll recipe that made them famous and they’ve refined that formula into a mixture so delicious it’s damn near impossible to get heavy-hitters like lead single ‘Sequestered in Memphis’ out of your head.

It isn’t just the anthems that make this album, however, as songs like 'Lord, I’m Discouraged' and 'Joke about Jamaica' add a different sort of substance to it, serving as the pseudo-ballads of the album, whilst still remaining as effective as the riff-laden sing-a-longs, with the former being highlighted by an impressively emotive guitar solo from Tad Kubler. The latter proves Craig Finn's thick, linear drawl to be as effective an instrument as any of the other band members, showing his vocal lessons yielded favourable results.

As has come to be expected from The Hold Steady, the songs are all distinguished with a keen sense of storytelling through Finn’s unique way of using simple, working mans prose to create effective and relatable lyrics including themes such as death, religion and aging as just a few of the myriad of topics covered. In 'One for the Cutters', Finn crafts a tale about a young girl testifying in court for a man she liked, with clever lines such as “When one townie falls in the forest, can anyone hear it?” or “It's hard to describe, so she kept it a secret” exemplifying Finn’s style.

However, it’s songs like ‘Sequestered in Memphis’, ‘Constructive Summer’ and ‘Stay Positive’ that show The Hold Steady at their finest, in the catchy, sing-a-long mood that defines their sound. Whether it’s the gang ‘whoa’s in the title track or the downright sincerity as Finn sings ‘our psalms are sing-a-long songs’ in ‘Constructive Summer’, they manage to create that determined, optimistic atmosphere that makes driving down an empty road with the sun overhead and the wind through your hair a perfect experience.

Stay Positive is full of optimism, introspection and sincerity and it’s helped them create an album that proves once again that The Hold Steady are worth every bit of hype that is thrown their way.



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user ratings (174)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
BigHans (3.5)
A newfound focus on maturity almost derails the best bar band in the world....

David James Young (2.5)
An album for a lazy (separation) Sunday won’t please the boys and girls in America....


Comments:Add a Comment 
AtavanHalen
September 26th 2008


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Review's good. We obviously don't see eye to eye on most of this. I really don't think this is better than Boys and Girls.
And Craig's singing really hasn't improved much.

sadmafioso
September 26th 2008


318 Comments


fuck yea

Kiran
Emeritus
September 26th 2008


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I figured I'd knock this one out just to offer a different opinion on it! I find his singing feels much more refined and clean on this, whether that's down to production or personal improvement I don't know, but I like it.

Digging: D'Angelo - Black Messiah

AtavanHalen
September 26th 2008


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Everyone (read: EVERYONE) seemed to like this more than I did.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2008


17231 Comments


yes, we did.

AtavanHalen
September 26th 2008


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It's confusing!!

Kiran
Emeritus
September 26th 2008


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it probably means you should like this more!

tom79
March 25th 2009


3384 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really good. I'm going to agree and say I like this better than Boys and Girls, which was a great record too.

Digging: Bent Outta Shape - Bent Outta Shape

Satellite
July 17th 2009


20826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I can't believe how underrated this band is on here.

Knott-
Emeritus
July 17th 2009


10198 Comments


yeh i need this boys and girls is fucking awesome.

Kiran
Emeritus
July 26th 2009


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

if you love boys and girls in america it's pretty much guaranteed you'll love this

Fort23
July 26th 2009


2480 Comments


True that^ though i find boys and girls a bit more enjoyable, though this still kicks ass. Separation Sunday is their best bar none.

BigHans
October 21st 2009


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Magazines" off this completely owns.

shade
November 17th 2009


1198 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It's a pretty good feeling, yeah, it feels pretty good

wtf

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2009


17231 Comments


wtf shade.

Kiran
Emeritus
November 20th 2009


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you cant just take one line out of a song and expect it to justify your hate for this band, mister

finns lyrics are outstanding

Satellite
December 28th 2009


20826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The only thing keeping this from reaching a 5 for me is Navy Sheets. The bonus tracks fucking rule face, too.

Kiran
Emeritus
December 29th 2009


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ive been meaning to rewrite this review since i wrote the boys and girls in america one so i should get on that soon

Andre3000
January 13th 2010


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice review, as always :D, oddly enough i disliked boys and girls. can't think why, its the only hold steady album i haven't instinctively bought

Kiran
Emeritus
January 13th 2010


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

still need to rewrite this since its taken an entirely new context since boys and girls seriously grew on me but i never get around to it : (



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