Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

January 01, 1970





Following the success of their last album, Stay Positive, The Hold Steady found
themselves in a difficult spot. While Stay
was a strong album with some incredible high points, it covered a
lot of the same musical ground as the band’s breakthrough Boys & Girls in America. Making another similar album would
have left them typecast and directionless, eventually leading to diminishing
returns a la the post Some Girls Rolling Stones.


As a result, much has been made of the fact that Heaven is Whenever is the most diverse
album they’ve ever made. Essentially, it’s the sound of a band in transition.


Many of Craig Finn’s lyrics have dealt with how to grow up
gracefully, but this seems to be the first time The Hold Steady, as a band, has
had to face that problem. Their solution is to keep the arena-rock riffs and
smart, name-dropping lyrics they’re known for (“Rock Problems” and “Soft in the
Center”) while also trying their hand at pop (“Hurricane J”), ballads (killer leadoff
track “The Sweet Part of the City”) and even a somewhat awkward stab at ska
(“Barely Breathing”).


Given the band’s skill and experience, it’s not surprising
that most of the album’s strongest tracks are riff-rockers. As for the
experiments, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. No surprise there
either. So for now, let’s give them credit for trying and see where they go
from here.


“The Sweet Part of the
City” “Rock Problems” HAL BIENSTOCK


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