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The Hold Steady - Stay Positive - Vagrant

The much beloved Hold Steady's fourth studio album – Stay Positiveis (I guess) a bit more on the "positive" side lyrically, while maintaining that weird combination of Springsteen-esque drama and Replacements' racket musically. Their fans are gonna love it, but will they reach the elusive masses with this one?

If the first single – "Sequestered In Memphis" – is any indication, they just might do it.  Achingly catchy, this is the tune that your friends who don't  get The Hold Steady will find impossible to resist.  Elsewhere, Craig Finn & company have crafted some other rock & roll gems, most notably "Constructive Summer", "Lord I'm Discouraged", and the very pretty "Both Crosses". This is a band that specializes in sing-alongs, and Stay Positive has plenty of those.   

A true force of nature live, The Hold Steady's fans all wonder why these guys aren't huge by now. The answer may lie in their musical touchstones, but it's probably more about their "everyman" presence and demeanor. Strangely, the very assets that draw a growing crowd into their eye may be the same things that keep them from true mainstream success. I have a feeling that the band is OK with the success that they've achieved, but you have to wonder what it would take to get them over with the masses. By doing what they do best on Stay Positive – writing anthemic rock songs – they have just given themselves their best possible chance.  Or maybe not.  Or maybe it doesn't matter as long as their fans are satisfied.

Written by Dan Reed

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