The Hold Steady: Stay Positive

"Me and my friends are like the drums on 'Lust for Life,'" sings Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, opening both "Constructive Summer" and fourth CD Stay Positive with what is almost certainly the perfect rock-and-roll analogy. The line captures the Brooklyn-via-Minnesota band's essential nature, a marriage of classic-rock exuberance and punk-rock swagger. More or less, it also forms Stay Positive's unifying conceit — Finn's usual odes to hard living are almost treated as a look back over the shoulder, as in, "Shit, I can't believe we did all that and are still around." Underneath, though, The Hold Steady is strongly determined to move forward. "Constructive" sneaks the point in, disguised as a rave-up ode to getting fucked up and screwing around — "With love and trust and shows all summer / get hammered! / Let this be my annual reminder that we can all be something bigger." That sentiment is perfectly mirrored on the title track, which finds Finn ruminating on what happens when a "scene" gets older. Don't worry, though; this isn't a record of midlife navel-gazing. This is Hüsker Dü rollicking down E Street, telling incredible stories and buying plenty of drinks along the way.


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