The Hold Steady’s sixth album,Teeth Dreams, faces the tall task of recapturing the brilliance of the band’s first four records that was somewhat missing on 2010’sHeaven Is Whenever. Lead singer Craig Finn is a storyteller of almost unparalleled brilliance as he sings of the trials and tribulations of young American life, but he’s grown up and is getting weary.
Teeth Dreams finds Finn dishing out advice rather than trying to find the next high, and the more relaxed, less celebratory music from the rest of the band reflects this. It’s almost as if the party is over and they’re picking up the pieces and trying to get on with adult life. Nailing this feeling is the slow-burning, nine-minute closer ‘Oaks’, the album highlight with a killer solo and possibly Finn’s most versatile vocal contribution ever.
While there are plenty of excellent tracks – notably ‘On With The Business’ and ‘Spinners’ – one can’t help but miss The Hold Steady anthems of old as the band’s party fatigue and relaxed maturity (both lyrically and musically) replaces its youthful optimism.
But even if it struggles to hit the highs of their earlier work, a new Hold Steady album is still an album worth the listen.