The Hold Steady
Craig Finn, raised in Minnesota, has always admitted that The Hold Steady, based in Brooklyn, owe as much to Husker Du as they do to the E Street Band, but that fabled union of Grant Hart/Bob Mould melodic punk songwriting and Bruce Springsteen blue-collar storytelling has never been more evident than on this sixth album. Fans of the band's Boys And Girls In America/Stay Positive era might mourn the fact that there's still no like-for-like replacement for keyboardist Franz Nicolay, who left in 2010, but that space has now been permanently filled by a second guitar. Steve Selvidge makes his long-player debut here, duelling rock-style with Tad Kubler when their combined riffs aren't swirling together in a deeper indie barrel, and producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains) is the right man for the job of beefing up that louder element in their sound. Once or twice Finn's literate sung/spoken narratives get lost beneath the instrumental onslaught, but his characters, now grown up but no less on the margins, remain vivid and unique.