REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Sixth album from The Hold Steady finds the band…well, just holding steady

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Craig Finn and co. celebrate their tenth anniversary in slightly lacklustre fashion with sixth album 'Teeth Dreams'


The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams (OUT 24TH MARCH)

It's probably fair to say that the years haven't been that kind to
The Hold Steady. The critical acclaim that heralded 2005 release
Separation Sunday and its swift 2006 successor
Boys And Girls In America was manifold and justifiably so. With an entirely obvious, but viscerally thrilling, melding of the barroom spit of
The Replacements/ Husker Du with the stirring narrative of
Bruce Springsteen as written by
Jack Kerouac, the band at their apex were beloved for their rollicking tales of repeating protagonists Charlemagne, Gideon and Holly. The somewhat inevitable unraveling of critical adoration synced with the band's increased commercial success. Each successive album brought with it bigger production budgets and a slicker, more mainstream-sheen to the songs that was in some ways a dilution of the raw passion and energy that made them so compelling in the first place. Okay, 2008’s
Stay Positive contained the entirely excellent '
Sequestered In Memphis' which had a refrain that ear-lodged for most of the year, but there’s been a creeping sense of diminishing returns since then that is compounded in many ways on their latest. For
Teeth Dreams is still overly polished, the youthful bite still blunted, but lucky enough to be bookended by two absolute belters. Opener
'I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You' is a zippy romp that blasts out any doubting cobwebs and for the next few songs it seems as if they might just sustain some of that vigour.
‘Spinners' roars along with melodic punch and measured crunch, whilst
'The Only Thing' is quasi-punk
REM, but when they hit the somewhat uninspired and dirge like
'Big Cig' worst suspicions are sadly confirmed and for much of the remainder it just sounds like a band slightly going through the motions, a paler version of past glories. Closer
'Oaks', each of its broken heart-soaked nine minutes, is magnificent though. It's an epic, stirring finale that's as close as you can probably get to
Neil Young's
'Zuma' in spirit without incurring Old Shakey's wrath. Not enough to quite forgive the relative lull beforehand but certainly close. Which in fairness given how little they’ve tinkered with the formula over the years beyond the added mainstream-friendly polish is probably no great surprise. With an opener and closer as strong as those that lie herein who am I to begrudge Mister Finn and co. if they want to grow old gracefully and aren’t railing against the world with quite the same gusto as ten years ago?