“He shaved his head at the airport / In a bar at the end of the concourse / He said you’re kind of catching me at a transitional time /I’m a bright light burning into a dark horse.”
Aaand BAM! Instantly we are sucked back into the murky underworld of the fictional society created by The Hold Steady, who, despite not having released a new album in more than five years, and now with former member Franz Nicolay back in the fold, immediately hit us with their best long player since 2008’s Stay Positive. Thrashing Thru The Passion should please old fans and new alike, with tunes filled with the euphoria of Boys And Girls In America period onwards, but also the amused/bemused fervour of the band’s earliest works. The icing on the cake, of course, is Craig Finn‘s incredulous delivery, whose four fine solo albums away from his cohorts, as well as Nicolay’s return, seem to have served to inspire him to get back to grass roots and to the sound that regularly saw the group touted as the “best bar band in the world.” Quite simply, Thrashing Thru The Passion rocks, and then some.
The pulsating recent single ‘You Did Good Kid‘ is undoubtedly set to become a live favourite, one which I would challenge anybody NOT to chant along gleefully within about 90 seconds of its introduction, and there is little let up throughout, rarely pausing to consider anything even vaguely approaching a ‘ballad’ along the lines of, say, ‘Lord, I’m Discouraged‘ or ‘A Slight Discomfort‘. The only time you could feasibly level such a suggestion at them is during the easy blues of ‘Blackout Sam‘, which is ever so slightly reminiscent of ‘Cheyenne Sunrise‘, but even then, the druggy references that plague some of Finn’s characters abound: “While we stood there at the service, with her hand upon my shoulder/ we could feel like every single thing / push the pill out through the foil / check the engine, change the oil / spend the summer wishing it was spring.”
While much of Thrashing Thru The Passion does feature the unmistakable half spoken Finn drawl that permeates the band’s inaugural releases, it should be noted that many of the tracks here are actually sung, and to great effect, perhaps most notably on album closer ‘Confusion In The Marketplace‘, which is arguably as close as he’s ever come to sounding like one of his great heroes, Bob Mould.
Sometimes an album is so good it makes you want to cry. This is one such occasion. Admittedly I won’t deny that I am already a long term admirer and therefore could be labelled a ‘fanboy’, but really, there’s something for everyone here. If you don’t love this, then I’m afraid you have no soul and I can only pity you.
Thrashing Thru The Passion is released on 16th August through Frenchkiss.