Irony is something The Hold Steady has worn for years — and really, the fact that multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay left the band in January seems like a stitch in that overcoat. The designer of such irony is Craig Finn, guitarist and storyteller of the Brooklyn foursome, a group charged on Indie Rock and, especially lately, a touch of Springsteen.
Finn, the sharp tongue, delivers lyrical topics ranging from loose sex and Oxycotin to Chips Ahoy and Cinco De Mayo — all things unstable and chaotic. But he’s a literature nerd, too, citing Yeats and Blake, among other luminaries. “And I met William Butler Yeats/ Sunday night dance party, summer 1988/ At first I thought it might be William Blake," he remembers in “Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night.”
Needless to say, he doesn't pull from a stable set of topics, as evidenced by The Hold Steady's releases since 2004. Of the five full-lengths, Stay Positive remains one of the most critically lauded, namely thanks to its opener “Constructive Summer,” a story exalting The Clash's Joe Strummer ("Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer/ I think he might have been our only decent teacher”).
Heaven Is Whenever is the most recent album in The Hold Steady's collection. Released in May, it finds Finn and Co. trading some Indie Rock muscle for Alt Country kisses on "The Sweet Part of the City" and "We Can Get Together," a dreamy musing about a girl and her records. Still, The Hold Steady's anthemic and ass-rattling Rock sensibilities are vast in tracks like "The Smidge" and "A Slight Discomfort," a roof-blowing anthem loaded with keys, strings and an army of guitar riffage engulfing any evidence of Finn's voice.
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