At this point, The Hold Steady are one of my personal Hall of Fame bands. There weren’t many stretches of my college career that I wasn’t constantly listening to those first four Hold Steady albums, and even now I frequently whip one of ’em out when I’m in need of a hard-rockin’ pick-me-up. Which makes sense considering I’m a big fan of both rock-riff dumbness and character-driven cleverness, and a Hold Steady record is one of the few places I can hear both of those things working in perfect harmony. Yet after 2010’s somewhat directionless Heaven Is Whenever, I was a little worried that I might not have room in my life for a new Hold Steady record. Fortunately, Teeth Dreams proves that these guys can still deliver the goods, even if they may have entered the “protect the legacy” era of their career.
The most notable thing about Teeth Dreams‘ sound is that it sees The Hold Steady finally filling the mustache-shaped hole in the band left by keyboardist Franz Nicolay. In his place is second-guitarist Steve Selvidge, whose combined twin-guitar attack alongside Tad Kubler breathes some new life into this band with an even more awesomely guitar-driven sound. Also, another improvement over the last album is that singer/lyricist Craig Finn seems to be back to his old ways of telling stories about young people partying their misery away. Maybe it would’ve been nice if he could’ve infused more of the lived-in wisdom that we saw on his recent solo album, but at the end of the day Teeth Dreams sees Finn telling the kinds of stories that he’s better at telling than anybody, and that’s good enough for me.
One complaint I’ve heard about this album is the presence of producer Nick Raskulinecz, whose recent work has included Evanescence and new-ish Rush albums, and he definitely gives the album a blander sheen than I would’ve liked. But for the most part this is a really good Hold Steady album, if not quite a great Hold Steady album, since none of these songs quite have that enduring anthemic quality that I always look for with these guys. Still, this has already been an album that I’ve had a really a fun time listening to over and over again. I don’t know of it’s due to my recent foray back in to classic rock, or I’ve just been starved for a new album that rocks even remotely hard. But it’s an easy album to put on, and I reckon it’ll get even easier once summertime rolls around.
Favorite Tracks: “Spinners”, “On With The Business”, “Big Cig”