On ‘Teeth Dreams,’ the Hold Steady show their age, and that’s OK

The Hold Steady are all grown up, but you're never too old for rock 'n' roll. (Credit: Danny Clinch)
The Hold Steady are all grown up, but you’re never too old for rock ‘n’ roll. (Credit: Danny Clinch)

Over their 10-year career, the Hold Steady have strategically amassed a catalogue of songs often centered on a recurring group of characters. Craig Finn introduced listeners to tragic heroes and fallen friends caught up in the partying lifestyle, formed from the amalgamation of acquaintances and fictional figures. His spoken delivery embraced witty double entendres, juxtaposing modern jargon with scholarly diction as he portrayed the ups and downs of the down-and-outs. And somehow, he always seemed to stay positive.

With “Teeth Dreams,” the band’s sixth studio album and the first on their own Washington Square label, hitting stores late last month, Finn’s songs seem to have naturally evolved from the post-adolescent party to the inevitable adult hangover. These are cautionary tales and proof that yesterday’s kicks become tomorrow’s bruises.

“It’s definitely the darkest Hold Steady record,” says Finn. “While the others had been especially hopeful and maybe positive and optimistic, this one may hold back on that optimism a bit. Writing this record, I wasn’t in a particularly bad place or anything, I was just fascinated with anxiety and the idea of mental health and the way we treat it nowadays and the way we deal with our neuroses.”

With such a repertoire of decadent characters, Finn says that his narrative had to change and that those wandering from the straight-and-narrow will inevitably fall.

“We started the band 10 years ago, and for the past 10 years I’ve known a lot of people close to me that have struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues,” he says. “I’m 42. When you’re 32 you might still be going along and having a good time, but at some point it starts to drag you down. … [Now] I’m trying to write characters that are a little older.

I think that’s a challenge, and it always has been. Rock ‘n’ roll is often about a teenager and a convertible. … It’s 50 and 60 years old now, so it doesn’t have to be. Great artists like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have written great songs about adults.”

If their message seems heavy, their instrumentation is even heavier — any somber sentiment quickly finds solace by leaning against the towering guitar solos that were hinted at before, but are now realized in skyscraping realities. The guitars have finally soared to reach Thin Lizzy heights, while Finn’s lyrics are still born to run


MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…


NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…


Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…


Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…


Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.


Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.


Review: Bickering family dramedy 'This is Where I…

A talented cast sits Shiva in the bickering family dramedy "This is Where I Leave You," although it's more sap than yuks.


Review: Desert-walking movie 'Tracks' would be better as…

Mia Wasikowska walks 1700 miles across Australia's deserts in "Tracks," in a story that defies triumph-of-the-spirit cliches but gets some of them anyway.


J.J. Watt poses unique challenges to struggling Giants…

Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total.


Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday.


Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.


NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)


A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.


3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.


Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…


Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…