The Hold Steady – “Teeth Dreams”
Since their formation in 2004, The Hold Steady have established themselves as one of the best alternative/punk bands around. Indeed,this has seen them produce the album “Boys And Girls Of America” which is widely regarded as a genuine modern classic. They have built a reputation for delivering not only great songs, but also a focus on brilliant story telling lyrics. Their latest release, “Teeth Dreams”, the first on a new label will be reaching an established and eager audience.
The album opens up with the less than snappy titled opening song, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You”. It is perhaps appropriate that it begins with such a wordy title, as The Hold Steady have always been renowned for their lyrics. It is also a comfort to hear the familiar sounds of Craig Finns’ spoken word, vocal style. The album then moves on to “Spinners”, which sees the band in ‘big rock’ mode, something that features quite heavily throughout the album. It’s a crunching rock song which, whilst retaining its alternative feel, is built on a melodic sound. “The Only Thing” keeps a similar style and is The Hold Steady at their most commercial sounding, with a Springsteen influence being very evident.
The Boss sound is also shown on “The Ambassador”, but this time it is a far more subdued and slower number, which is surprisingly restrained and poignant. The song builds slowly to a peak and then flows away again. Its equivalent on what would, in the old days, be the B side, is the song “Almost Everything”. Again it’s a slower and brooding number with an almost country or folk feel to it.
The first track which really bears a resemblance to their earlier recordings is “On With The Business”. It has that added punk angst feel and a more incoherent sound. They also focus on the ‘alternative’ side to their bow with “Big City”. It sees them deliver another great storyline type approach to their lyrics.
That big rock sound comes back yet again on a corking number called “Wait A While”. There just seems to be an extra swagger on the guitar lines on this album, and no more so than on this track. “Runners High” keeps things rocking out with an even bigger melody, which has a Cheap Trick feel to it. It’s a perfect blend of indie rock with a hint of pop. The album ends with “Oaks”, a huge and epic song. In a live set you would expect it to be met with complete silence and amazement. It has a huge feel of power and strength behind it.
The Hold Steady are one of those bands who, having released some genuine classic albums, are always going to see a new release compared to their back catalogue. It is probably fair to say the last couple of albums have seen them struggling slightly to reach those highs. “Teeth Dreams” isn’t a classic like “Boys & Girls In America” but what it is, is an album from a band who now seem comfortable in their own skin. There are still songs full of poignant lyrics and distorted guitars, however, they’re no longer just a young, alternative, rock band. They now seem to have the confidence to deliver some huge rock songs. At some point, a band needs to recognise they are not the upstarts with a hint of Springsteen, but actually a fully grown band who need to actually lead a scene. On “Teeth Dreams”, The Hold Steady position themselves as the band to do just that.