The Hold Steady

Open Door Policy

Written by: PP on 02/03/2021 19:28:51

The Hold Steady continue churning out some of the most original music of this generation through their steadfastly unique format of charismatic, anecdotal storytelling by Craig Finn that's perfectly contrasted by the keyboard and organ melodies provided by Franz Nicolay. The rest of the band compliments the duo through intricate guitars and colourful percussion, and when it's all put together, the end result is some of the most vibrant, harmonious soundscapes you'll come across. That they continue to be this consistent on their eighth album "Open Door Policy" suggests the band has plenty of bangers left in the bag, despite having nearly twenty years already behind them.

"Thrashing Thru The Passion" two years ago was a return to form of sorts for the band. Not because "Teeth Dreams" and especially not "Heaven Is Whenever" were bad albums (the latter was great!), but because they were missing the magical element that Franz Nicolay's presence brings to the overall soundscape. It was a rowdy, yet brilliantly creative affair that took the band back to their bar rock roots. In comparison, "Open Door Policy" is a much lighter affair.

It's still fundamentally based on the same elements: Craig Finn's lyrical universe is not just fascinating, it's dazzling in sheer detail of the short stories that truly come to life via his rambling delivery. But here, the band takes a step back from the louder realm of rock and delivers us sobering reflections on power, wealth, and mental health through songs like "The Prior Procedure" in a more troubadour-like, balladic format. It's still a classic American rock song at heart, but less Bruce and more like Attack In Black in many ways. Consider this passage from the aforementioned song:

He said large-scale displacement's such a major modern tragedy

That's why I instituted this open door policy


He said he's through with computers 'cause they can't understand

The fawn in the traffic or the failures of man

How a new billionaire in an Underdog shirt

Built a statue to honor his ways and his words

While the rest of these martyrs got marched off to work through the weekend

Indeed, this is a more explicitly sociopolitical Hold Steady than we're used to hearing, but it also gives a refreshing angle that's previously left uncovered, at least not in as much detail as it is throughout this record, where themes of consumerism, technology and much more are also visited.

What's more, the record is characterized by its immense staying power and longevity. The songs grow slowly but surely, rewarding those willing to give the record the amount of listens it needs to uncover the details of songs like "Heavy Covenant" and "Riptown". Not that the record doesn't have its instant head-turners as well, like "Lanywards", "Spices", "Family Farm" and "Me & Magdalena".

At the end of the day, "Open Door Policy" is rich in texture, loaded with animated stories wrapped inside complex, but ultimately brilliant songwriting that underscores this album as arguably their best since "Stay Positive". We range from alternative rock songs to indie rock realms and from troubadourism to near-acoustic campfire stories in one full, depth-laden listen, with zero songs that shouldn't be on this album. As usual, The Hold Steady delivers one of the year's masterpieces that's guaranteed to feature on most year-end lists.


Download: The Prior Procedure, Heavy Covenant, Riptown, The Feelers, Spices, Lanyards, Family Farm
For the fans of: Restorations, The Thermals, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Mould, Frank Turner, Attack In Black
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.02.2021
Positive Jams

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