Album Review: The Hold Steady - Thrashing Thru The Passion

Words by Daniel Rourke

Following Craig Finn's four year jaunt as a solo artist, you'd have been forgiven for thinking The Hold Steady had disappeared into the depths of what was, only resurfacing to relive the glory days during occasional weekenders.

However, after a slew of tracks were released in late-2017, middle-aged men everywhere donned their flannel shirts, as it seemed that The Hold Steady were slowly prepping for their first full-length since 2014's hit and miss 'Teeth Dreams'.

Despite the positive reaction to the the new tracks, Entitlement Crew and Snake In The Shower came and went without trace of a new album, and aside from the digital release of a few other tracks, fans would be left waiting until June of this year for the official announcement of the band's seventh studio album, 'Thrashing Thru The Passion'.

Billed as a collection of five songs recorded when the band came together this year and five previously released tracks, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Finn & co. were phoning it in, capitalising on the demands of fans for a quick buck alongside a couple of set-refreshers to throw into the next weekender. Thankfully, that's not the case, as 'Thrashing Thru The Passion' proves to be one of the most defiant and fulfilling The Hold Steady releases to date.

Whether it's the twisting tale of album opener Denver Haircut or the fist-pumping chorus of You Did Good Kid, there's a feeling of buoyancy on the record, and that's largely thanks to the reintroduction of keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose return to the fold sees the band expand drastically upon a sound that had become somewhat cookie-cutter.

Whether it's the grandiose Springsteen-esque Traditional Village, the dower Billy Joel-like Blackout Sam, or the winding rock 'n' roll frenzy that is T-Shirt Tux, there's depth found here that had become missing from some of the band's previous outings, and as 'Thrashing Thru The Passion' progresses, it becomes evident that Finn has progressed alongside it.

While the frontman has always been held in high regard for his ability to spin a HBO-level story into his songs, his past four years of solo ventures seem to have shaped him into a punchier storyteller. Whether it's characters getting lost in a cycle of movie-like situations, or lines the characters themselves throw out, there's something encapsulating about each and every story found on the record.

Even though there was some scepticism surrounding how 'Thrashing Thru The Passion' came together, naysayers will quickly be proven wrong. While the record may not hit the same heights as 'Separation Sunday' or 'Boys and Girls in America', there is something utterly refreshing about The Hold Steady's seventh entry into their discography, with tracks like Entitlement Crew and Star 18 set to become staples in the band's live shows.