2010, Music

Heaven is Whenever (2010) by The Hold Steady

From the opening notes of “The Sweet Part of the City” it’s pretty clear that this band has finally overcome their Springsteen odour. Sure, Finn is still an extremely Sprinsteenian songwriter, but the rest of the band no longer sounds like a louder E-Street band minus the sax. (I’d blame that on the departed keyboard player but I know this had already happened on the previous album.)

I can’t tell you how much of a difference that makes for me, as a listener. I almost want to go back to Boys and Girls in America and knock that review down a point just so this review’s grade makes more sense.

They’re connecting to a larger musical tradition here, which makes it way easier to like for someone like me, who likes these other sounds, but does not enjoy the Springsteen worship.

However, I’m still stuck with the songs. Finn is a good writer, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s not my kind of songwriter. Finn’s songs are stories – literal stories – about people. They’re prose more than poetry a lot of the time. He’s ambitious too, writing songs that update us on the lives of the characters. All this is well and good, but…

I don’t listen to songs for stories, I listen for other reasons. I like poetic lyrics, not literal lyrics (mostly). Finn’s ratio of literal storytelling to poetry is rather ridiculous, like no one else outside of The Boss that I’ve heard. And even Sringsteen uses poetic language more.

And these are not people I know or want to know. I never spent my time doing the things Finn clearly did and I have no interest in knowing these people.

So though I recognize that Finn is a good songwriter, and that the band has finally (mostly) overcome their gigantic musical debt to Springsteen and the E-Street Band, this is still not for me.


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