The Hold Steady

Thrashing thru the Passion

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Reconvening for a full album for the first time in a half-decade, the Hold Steady do sound a bit older on Thrashing Thru the Passion -- an evolution they do not attempt to hide at all, which is to their benefit. It's not so much that the group no longer crank their amplifiers until they bleed and push the tempo to the point that Craig Finn has to rush to spit out his words, although those are developments that are hard to ignore. It's that the Hold Steady seem so comfortable in their skin on Thrashing Thru the Passion that they allow themselves to fiddle with details in the margins. They let the pace slow just enough to allow themselves to deepen the colors and textures of their arrangements, whether it's accentuating the new wave throb on "Entitlement Crew" or the woozy horns that play catch up with the guitar riffs on "T-Shirt Tux" and "The Stove & The Toaster." Some of this broadened palette may be down to the return of keyboardist Franz Nicolay, playing on his first Hold Steady record since 2008's Stay Positive. Nicolay lends the band a sense of careening, carnivalesque energy that complements the full-throttle guitar of Tad Kubler, but the vibe of Thrashing Thru the Passion is more considered and subdued than the band's records of the 2000s. Often, the album recalls the carefully observed short stories of Finn's solo albums -- he released a trilogy between 2014's Teeth Dreams and Thrashing -- but this is unquestionably the work of a full band, one who knows each other's weaknesses as well as they know their strengths. All this means is that Thrashing Thru the Passion feels mature but not stuffy or settled; it's the sound of a group that cherishes their own peculiar chemistry and choose to bask within the righteous noise they make.

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