Album of the Week: The Hold Steady, 'Thrashing Thru The Passion'

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The Hold Steady, 'Thrashing Thru The Passion'
The Hold Steady, 'Thrashing Thru The Passion' (Frenchkiss)
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I am writing this review on September 13, 2019, which is the five-year anniversary of the Replacements' much-ballyhooed homecoming reunion concert at Midway Stadium in St. Paul. It was an evening that provided selections across the band's catalog, and made new memories for legions of fans for whom the Replacements already held a special place. When I pulled up to the concert that September evening, I hung out for a while with some fellow Current staffers who were tailgating in the parking lot. This is how I caught most of the set of the band who opened for the Replacements that night: The Hold Steady. (Yes, I know Lucero opened as well, but I was driving from work during their set). It was a unique experience, as there were exactly two things that anyone in the parking lot could make out from the Hold Steady's set:

1.) The unmistakable timbre of Craig Finn's voice, even if the words weren't distinct,
and
2.) The thundering guitar riffs that sent concussions of energy through the parking lot, to the point where you could tell just from the ground shook that, say, this one was "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You."

These two elements are the two core ingredients of the Hold Steady, and anything more that happens to get added on is largely ornamental. After a half-decade, the band seems to grip this better than ever with their newest, Thrashing Thru the Passion.

The songs on the new record began trickling out starting in 2017, with the release of "Entitlement Crew" as a single, followed by a stream of singles that eventually culminated with many of them appearing together on the new album. As a result, many songs already seem familiar, and work together well despite not having a unified thematic thread like some of their previous album.

Craig Finn has released several solo albums - three, in fact, just since the release of the last Hold Steady album in 2014. When he chatted with me in June, he noted that his solo albums were "a little more vulnerable, a little more personal, and possibly a little smaller. With the Hold Steady, I'm mainly writing the lyrics and the other guys are writing the music, bringing in these huge riffs so that big things need to happen in a Hold Steady song. On these [solo] records, I've kind of put the microscope on things, examined things that a bit more mundane and day-to-day but might actually resemble my real life a little more." Finn's solo songs have allowed him to explore this territory, to an often trenchant effect, such as the largely spoken word "God in Chicago." One thing that rings true with Thrashing Thru the Passion is his keen awareness of the obligation of Hold Steady songs to have Big things to match the Huge riffs.

The Big moments in a Hold Steady song are those moments that may not add up to anything for an outside listener, but are the crucial moments in the lives of the characters. These are folks who not only walk both sides of the law, but do so with pizazz, alcohol, and a long litany of other vices. Sometimes they're in South Minneapolis, some times at the Denver Airport, other times crisscrossing the American Southwest by multiple means of transportation. Deals go down, parties get thrown with mixed results, all inhabited by a steadily rotating cast of boys and girls in America: if ever there was a band to be entirely self-aware, even to a fault, it's the Hold Steady. Their mythos continues to fold in upon itself, and it's to the credit of Thrashing Thru the Passion that this mythos continues to develop in new and creative ways. It's easy to see a world where the Hold Steady could be as revered as the Replacements, endearing themselves to their fans while perhaps a next generation of mythmakers waits in the wings.

The Hold Steady - Thrashing Thru the Passion LP giveaway


Use this form to enter for a chance to win a vinyl copy of The Hold Steady's album Thrashing Thru the Passion on vinyl between Monday, September 16 at 12:01 a.m. and Sunday, September 22 at 11:59 p.m. Central. One (1) winner will be selected and notified via email on Monday, September 23, 2019. Winner must accept by Wednesday, September 25, 2019. Four (4) back up names will be drawn. Retail value $20.00.

This giveaway is subject to Minnesota Public Radio's 2019 Official Giveaway Rules.

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