i lucked into the hold steady early.
first time i saw them, they opened up a spin day party at sxsw in 2005.
it was 1 pm on a saturday. the texas sun was blazing.
i was eating good bbq and drinking cheap beer.
i can still see it clear as day.
they started with positive jam. just craig finn and his guitar.
by the time the band kicked in, i was bowled over. sold. hooked.
they were nothing short of great.
i’ve seen umpteen shows since then.
interviewed finn a few times. reviewed every album.
tracked the grim, desperate lives of finn’s recurring characters.
dug into his wordy, poetic narratives of drugs and crime and sin and redemption.
and watched as finn and his bandmates grew, evolved and matured.
like their fans, they’re older and mellower now.
but mostly, they’re still the same deep down.
their eighth album open door policy is calmer, moodier, more reflective.
more melodies and fewer power-chord riffs.
it’s still anchored in classic guitar-rock.
but it also flirts with glam, psychedelia and more.
there are plenty of horns. keyboards are prominent again. franz is back.
the songs seem a little closer to the intimacy of finn’s solo albums.
the names and faces in these songs have also changed. aged. matured.
but deep down inside, they’re still basically the same too.
schemers and dreamers. hustlers and suckers. strugglers and failures. damaged goods.
folks who are just trying to get by, but can’t catch a damn break.
all of which is along way of saying the hold steady have come a long way.
maybe they’re not the band that will bowl you over any more.
not a band you rock out to while drinking beer in the hot sun.
now they’re a band you sit down and pay attention to and think about.
but they’re still pretty damn great in my book.
and if open door policy is a sign of things to come, count me in.
it’s like finn says in the song spices:
we’re going to see where this goes.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “We recorded Open Door Policy in two different sessions in the back half of 2019. Once again we teamed with producer Josh Kaufman and engineer Dan Goodwin, this time at the Clubhouse studio in upstate N.Y. Our intention was to create an album that worked as a grand piece, rather than a collection of songs. 2019 was an active year for The Hold Steady — our writing was consistent, and new songs were coming in pretty regularly. The recording process was creative, open and fun.
We were pretty much done with the record by the time we played a few of the new songs in London the first week of March 2020, as the unease of the pandemic was setting in. Not long after we got back from London, N.Y.C. shut down and we began to see our 2020 shows postponed. Over the next months, it became obvious that timing this album’s release to specific weekend celebrations wouldn’t be a possibility in the near future. But we were still excited to share it.
The songs on Open Door Policy are about power, wealth, & mental health. They’re about technology, occupation, consumerism, freedom, fandom and escape. And although the album was written and recorded in 2019, the themes of this record seem to be underscored and highlighted by this year of virus and quarantine. Thanks for listening. Thanks for understanding. We’re really glad that you’re here.”