The Hold Steady

Teeth Dreams

Written by: PP on 16/04/2014 23:26:41

"Heaven Is Whenever", the previous album by seminal poetic alternative rock band The Hold Steady , was divisive when it came out four years ago. Being the first record since the departure of synth player Franz Nicolay, the band lost some of their straight-forward flair for simplifying their experimental indie/alternative/punk style for the listeners that was so magnificently on display on the 10/10 classic "Stay Positive" from two years earlier. Instead, they opted to write a more complex album with quite possibly their most structurally challenging songs to date, and as a result it took forever to grow into that album. Perhaps too long for some, which is why it wasn't as universally acclaimed in comparison. But in the end, it was a great record if you had patience, and keeping that in mind I've been hoping across the past few weeks their sixth album "Teeth Dreams" would be, too.

The record is largely a continuation of "Heaven Is Whenever" in that it doesn't introduce many new elements to their sound. Instead, it retains their trademark southern rock spice to the unconventional hybrid between alternative rock, synths, acoustic interludes and the drunken sailor style storytelling of vocalist Craig Finn. Having always been one of the very strengths of the band, his lyrical craft shines here on "Big Cig" and "On With The Business", the two highlight tracks on the record. Here, the quirky instrumentals meet in perfect harmony to his ramblings and musings, resulting in interesting melodies that still to date continue to be as unique as they are inimitable. The latter is particularly a quintessentially Hold Steady styled song in its rhythmic texture that deviates significantly from the norms and standards within the genre. The former, on the other hand, is the most "Stay Positive"-sounding track on the record with its strong lead melody and enjoyable organs faded to the background providing charismatic atmosphere.

Should the entire record consist of similar moments, then yes, we'd be looking at the high-end of our rating scale once again. Unfortunately, there are plenty of songs where Finn's storytelling doesn't captivate you, and the instrumentals don't offer much help either. And while The Hold Steady have never been a chorus type of band, they've always had a quirky melody here, a catchphrase there, or a mesmerizing story to either blow you or away or keep you sufficiently interested in what's going on. There are simply too many moments on "Teeth Dreams" where that doesn't happen, where it feels like the band are almost on autopilot without the burning need to share these stories with their audience. At least this scribe finds it difficult to identify with them as strongly as in the past; as a result "Teeth Dreams" feels a tad disappointing. That being said, The Hold Steady are very consistent songwriters otherwise so it's difficult to pick apart their songs further than that. Merely decent, with a few great tracks, is probably the best description for "Teeth Dreams". We've just been so spoiled throughout their discography that we're accustomed to better.

7

Download: On With The Business, Big Cig, Wait A While, Runner's High
For the fans of: Franz Nicolay, Bangers, Drive-By Truckers, Lucero,
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.03.2014
Washington Square / Razor & Tie

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