Reviews The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams

The Hold Steady

Teeth Dreams

The Hold Steady has been on quite a ride. They went from “New York bar band” to critical and indie darlings to, now, wavering somewhere on the edge of the public consciousness without really breaking into new circles. In other words, they seem to have found their fan base and stuck with it. Separation Sunday was a favorite record of mine in 2005 (and still is), but it’s felt like a steady decline since. The band has expanded their classic rock wankery, stretching into longer songs, louder solos, and structures that pull attention more toward the guitars than the lyricism and/or mixing up the rhythms. Still, with the release of Teeth Dreams this March, their sixth album, why not see where the band is at today?

The answer: pretty much the same place as with Heaven Is Whenever. The vocals are sung in a soothing tone while the guitars soar toward the smoky spotlights above. It’s not just steeped in ‘70s hard rock anymore, it’s bathed in it and the sheen sometimes blinds off their instruments. The lyrics are still yarns about colorful characters and detailed settings, pulling a majority of namedrops to Minneapolis locations and peppering the larger story with other locales. But the lyrics are also harder to discern, as they get buried under the guitars.

I won’t bother with the “yes, he’s actually singing” review. That’s been covered by all the mainstream outlets a few years ago. The problem is that Finn isn’t a singer. No, he’s not bad. He hits his note and sticks to it—which is really where it gets dull on the overall product. There’s little variety in his pitch from track #1, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You,” to track #10, “Oaks.” It all blends together with obligatory guitar solos that flow after each chorus marking the only parts that pull the songs in a new direction. It’s not bad at what it does, but it never really gets good. “Wait a While” is a perfect example of where The Hold Steady is at today. It’s an ear-pleasing melody with some loud guitars and neat little flourishes to break away from the pop confines every now and again. But it only breaks convention enough to note the solos and to absent-mindedly sing along with the chorus. It never truly grabs the attention and carries it, instead just drifting from song to song. The band has shifted their focus from lyrics to the guitars and those guitars just aren’t very interesting.

6.5 / 10Loren
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6.5 / 10

6.5 / 10

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