The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

I’m going to start this review the same way I started my review of Broken Social Scene‘s Forgiveness Rock Record

This week makes me miss the days when I would go to the record store, buy a CD I had been waiting for, get in my car and open in up and drive around for an hour while listening to it.  The anticipation, the opening of the physical media, the artwork and first new sounds from my favorite band coming out my speakers.

Heaven Is Whenever is The Hold Steady‘s fifth album and the first without the moustached keyboard stylings of Franz Nicolay.  It’s the album that is starting the backlash.  It seems every time a band gets too much hype built around them, the wolves come out to tear them down to size.  I am just as guilty as anyone else one this.  I was a huge Animal Collective fan until they became the next big thing.  I’m not sure why this happens…but it does.

They arn’t the same without Franz.  They are a glorified bar band.  They just do the same thing over and over.  They arn’t  maturing as a band.

These are all the complaints I have heard about The Hold Steady and all of them are correct.  And I could give a shit less!  Franz will be missed.  They are a glorified bar band.  They do the same thing over and over and not much changes from album to album…and that’s just the way I like it!  The fact that they are a bar band is what makes their live shows so much fun!  They rock out like they don’t have a care in the world while Craig Finn speak-sings, yell and spits his stories about the boy and girls in America like no other.

And it is Craig‘s lyrics that make this band.  I first fell in love with Holly, Charlemagne and Gideon (all characters from Finn’s tales) on Separation Sunday.  An album about ugly, druggie teenage years and even uglier Christianity.  It wasn’t the music or even Craig’s voice that made that album for me…it was the stories it told.  In fact, when Boys and Girls in America came out, I was disappointed at first because Craig‘s vocals were too buried in the music. That album gradually became my favorite though…once I learned the lyrics and saw how amazing those songs were live.  Stay Positive was a little bit of a letdown at first, but once I grasped that the kids were getting older, but not growing up…it hit home.

So here we are with the next chapter.  Heaven Is Whenever was touted as more of a straight-rock record with less anthems and more rock ‘n roll.  Well, I don’t see it.  To me it’s just another Hold Steady album with great stories.  And because of that, it’s going to be one of my favorite albums this year.  I am especially looking forward to seeing the new tunes live.  Sure, Franz will be missed, but I’m still sure we will all be singing, dancing and walking around and drinking some more!

What it comes down to is that Craig Finn is in my head.  His lyrics relate to a life I led, a life I am living and a life that I’m sure is in my future.

Here are just a few of the lyrics that make me love this album:

he said the theme of this party’s the Industrial Age
And you came in dressed like a train wreck

We were living it.
We delivered it.
We didn’t feel a thing.
We were living in the sweet part of the city.
The parts with the bars and restaurants.

But it’s a long haul to the corner store from the center of the universe
when you can’t get your car off the curb.

You can’t tell people what they want to hear
if you also want to tell the truth.

You can’t get every girl.
You get the ones you love the best.
You won’t get every girl.
You love the ones you get the best.

Forget all the boys that you met at the harbor
You’re too hard already, you’ll only get harder
Forget everything that I showed you this summer
You’re too hard already, you’ll only get harder

You’re a beautiful girl and you’re a pretty good waitress

tonight I’m gonna have a really good time
but i wanna go to heaven on the day i die
gonna make like a preemptive strike
the five thirty mass early Saturday night

good guys but we can’t be good all the time
we’re good guys but we can’t be good our whole lives
we’re good guys but we can’t be good every night
now father i have sinned and i wanna do it all again tonight

make the sign of the cross with your cigarette

And you say you’re a princess,
I remain unconvinced
I have seen the guys you’ve been with
And they don’t seem much like princes

The Hold Steady – Rock Problems