Vinyl Vlog 617

Vinyl Vlog 617

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Monday, 21 August 2023
COLUMN

The Hold Steady
The Price of Progress

I think I’ve said this before, but the Hold Steady are one of those bands that suffers from Monty Python syndrome, in the sense that it’s good, but the most annoying people in the world will not shut the fuck about it. Have you met a Hold Steady fan? If you’re not sure, then you haven’t. The real Hold Steady fans are annoying as hell. They think of themselves as some sort of ambassadors of good-will.  As such, it’s hard to really enjoy a band that others have elevated to such a god-like stature (“The Hold Steady ruined music for me, because nothing else compares to them” is an actual quote, guys). The thing about the Hold Steady is that they’re a good band. They really are. It’s just that, just like any band with a long career, they have good songs and band, and – GASP – they have good ALBUMS and bad ones. For a good Hold Steady album, Separation Sunday is a good an album as any. For a bad album, look at Heaven is Whenever. Their album before it “Stay Positive” might have birthed them a logo (a + sign modified to also look like an infinity symbol), but it’s also maybe the last great Hold Steady Album. But this band perseveres no matter what. Now Price of Progress has come along, and much to everyone’s relief, it’s REALLY good. Like, the best this band has sounded in the last three albums. And I mean that as a compliment!

It’s hard to say what exactly makes Price of Progress stand out so much. The overpolishedess plaguing their previous effort is still present (like singer Craig Finn’s spacey effervescent vocals). Maybe it’s the band writing harded songs again (instead of the ballady Heaven is Whenever). Whatever the case, the songs on Price of Progress start off slow, then just rock, and quite honestly, I haven’t heard a Hold Steady album that keeps picking up steam like this one. There are even slow spooky numbers on here. From the song “Grand Junction” straight through the ballad “Carlos is Crying” and the awesome wonders of “Sideways Skulls” and “Flyover Halftime” one has to admit this might be the most consistently good Hold Steady album. That old magic is back. Maybe it’s because Franz is back? And for a band that has been around for so long, it’s always easy to jadedly point to the old material when someone asks you where they should start if they want to get into the Hold Steady. Fuck that, man, you can start right here!

The vinyl edition is very very cool. The photograph cover looks beautiful in 12” format, on yellow vinyl on a single record, because this album is surprisingly short. Or maybe it’s just so good, it’s over before you know it. Keeping it classy, guys!

photo: @whoismisterjim

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