The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant, 2008)
Anthemic sounding rock 'n' roll with the "big" sound like Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, et. al. The character studies are quite interesting, almost beat like in their studies of the underside of American youth. Musicians running from the law, college girls consorting with shady characters, and wondering why the boys are so into music. "Constructive Summer" wins points right away by shouting out to "Saint Joe Strummer" with a pounding rock 'n' roll beat. "Sequestered in Memphis" is a blasting rock 'n' roller about a musician on the run. As someone who went to college in the middle of nowhere, "One for the Cutters" brought back memories with its lyrics about college girls shunning their peers to party with the locals in a honky-tonk bar, and out in the back woods. The title track leaves the usual punk nihilism in the dust for a more provocative and proactive message. This is an interesting marriage of the energy of punk rock like The Clash and The Ramones, with the orchestral, full bodied sound of early Springsteen in Phil Spector produced pop. Combining well produced music with thoughtful and imaginative lyrics make this an interesting disc to check out for people who feel that rock 'n' roll has gone stale in the days of Myspace and Clearchannel.
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