the real positive jam
Everything is so quick! Shit moves so fast that they don't even have time for Big Endings anymore--a few of these motherfuckers have to fade out before the next one comes crashing in. Stay Positive is simultaneously crunchily dense and songfully lean. The callbacks to old songs are a hoot and don't feel like a reliance for once. Speaking of reliances, the drugs are buried or retrospective if not gone! I was worried when I first heard Craig Finn was taking voice lessons WELL FUCK ME this is the most listenable I've ever found him and I was a considerably big fan before. He's stepped back a little from the front, back inside the band and he made the transition cleaner than Art Brut.
What about classic rock? I finally understand a certain Drive-By Truckers analogy..."Lord, I'm Discoraged" and "Sequestered In Memphis" are the rootsiest things these guys have done, the latter even evokes an E Street twang madness unheard since what, Mermaid Avenue? And the maturity: "Lord, I'm Discouraged" is sexy. Franz Nicolai isn't just showing off anymore, what with the harpsichord, spy-movie organ, laser synth and barrelhouse piano coloring in the tunes, not icing them with a flourish. Is that a Bon Jovi "Bed of Roses" solo Tad Kubler's taking on "Lord?" Is "Yeah Sapphire" the most tasteful Counting Crows tune never made? The seemingly endless drumrolls, the backup altarboys, pianos stacked on top of wailing guitars on top of no-longer-rough melodies...and to top the untoppable, they go out on the best one. "Slapped Actress" is vertical beauty Iron & Wine will never know. I just assumed with "First Night" these guys were on their way to blanding out. Epic fail.
Not only does Boys and Girls in America get run over by this like a tank, I'm thinking Separation Sunday might also be treading water. Did I mention how fast this thing moves? I'm not ruling out the possibility that this is the greatest Hold Steady album.