The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion review – chancers and chasers in fist-punching glory

(Frenchkiss Records)
Craig Finn’s barstool-rock raconteurs paint a portrait of booze-soaked Americana with their most enthralling record in years

You don’t listen to Hold Steady albums – you live in them. Craig Finn’s barstool-rock raconteurs’ six albums so far have been engrossing adventures through an America full of delinquents and dreamers, their stories sketched into bolshy, blue-collar indie singalongs. It’s a formula that’s served the group well: with the exception of 2010 misstep Heaven Is Whenever, the Hold Steady have operated with a dependability befitting their band name since forming in Brooklyn in 2003, amassing a devoted cult fanbase in the process. On seventh album Thrashing Thru the Passion, they further cement their punk poet laureate credentials over 10 songs-cum-caterwauling character studies that are among Finn and friends’ most enthralling to date.

The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion album artwork
The Hold Steady: Thrashing Thru the Passion album artwork Photograph: PR Handout

It doesn’t take long to tick off their trademarks. Feverishly fun opener Denver Haircut packs fist-punching guitars, E-Street Band-like harmonies and grabby lyrics plunging you into Finn’s imagination: “He shaved his head at the airport, in a bar at the end of the concourse,” roars its opening line. The frontman’s tales of chancers and chasers don’t end there: Blackout Sam is a Randy Newman-ish piano plod about a dropout who “keeps waking up at parking ramps” while You Did Good Kid is a murky mood-setter centring on “drifters in the kitchen” drugged into oblivion. It never quite scales the anthemic highs of their mid-noughties classics, Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America, but Thrashing Thru the Passion does what it sets out to do: scratch again beneath the surface of America’s hedonistic undertow, and prove there’s plenty more life in these Brooklyn boozehounds yet.


Al Horner

The GuardianTramp

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