The Hold Steady "Stay Positive" Review

Originally published in the OCCC Pioneer on July 14th, 2008.

Whenever anyone talks about The Hold Steady, the words “bar band” are almost always mentioned. And while it’s a bit unfair to limit such a great band to such a simple description, it certainly applies.

The songs on the Minneapolis band’s fourth album, “Stay Positive,” rely on classic rock archetypes and a punk rock sensibility to create energetic bar songs.

The album brings to mind Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Thin Lizzy and The Clash all at once.

One of The Hold Steady’s biggest strengths has always been Craig Finn’s lyrics. His songs are full of intricate stories that are both immensely interesting and instantly relatable.

Though this album doesn’t follow one cohesive storyline like previous Hold Steady albums, it’s still incredibly thematically rich.

The album’s title, “Stay Positive,” definitely represents the album. For the most part, it’s an incredibly hopeful and optimistic record.

“Constructive Summer” begins the album with it’s fast pace, talk of drinking on water towers and claim that “St. Joe Strummer” was their “only decent teacher.”

“Sequestered in Memphis” tells the story of a one-night stand gone wrong. The song’s catchy chorus, keyboard flourishes and driving riffs make it clear why this song was chosen as the album’s single.

The albums title track is another highlight. The gang vocals present throughout the track are especially great.

On “Constructive Summer,” Finn sings “Our psalms are sing-a-long songs,” and with “Stay Positive,” it’s clear that they really are.