Friday, May 7, 2010

Heaven is Whenever is whatever (?)

It's one thing writing about why I dislike something totally different from what I've liked before, or something from a scene I used to be into but have more or less given up on. That's easy enough. It's harder, I think, to write about why I don't like something by a band I've loved for a long time and for whom a new record isn't that huge of a departure.

That's as much of an excuse for the following lack of insight as it is my usual obsession with why I think and write the way I do potentially getting in the way of my writing, but anyways, I don't like this new Hold Steady record very much and, this being the first time I've not liked something by Craig Finn, I've been thinking about it a bit.

I don't think that Franz Nicolay leaving has much to do with it. As much as I enjoyed his presence (yes, on record too), I doubt any piano fills could liven up the stuff I don't like here. That stuff starts right off the bat with "The Sweet Part of the City", which is right now my least favorite Hold Steady song ever. It sounds them finally getting pulled into a 90s facsimile of classic rock they've always been more interesting than. That I, on balance, prefer Finn ranting to him singing should be no surprise, but this is the most that his lyrical hooks have ever felt lost in a song.

It's not all bad, of course. "We Can Get Together" is even softer than "The Sweet Part of the City" and references a bunch of songs and is mostly about Heavenly, of all bands, but does well with a sweetness that is one of Finn's more underrated attributes. And I've come around on "Hurricane J", a song about a girl that, for once, isn't named after a saint. But in the end, it mostly sounds to me like a bunch of anthems without nearly enough hooks. I might go read the lyric sheet.

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