Creatively Boundless

I Think Craig Finn Was Drunk That Night: A Positive Rage – Ari Schuman by redbassist

The Hold Steady have enraptured me since I first hear the scratchy lyrics of Craig Finn on 2006’s Boys and Girls in America. Their most recent album, A Positive Rage (released April 7), is a live album that contains songs mostly from Boys and Girls, but brings in tunes from Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, and Stay Positive (the most recent original album). Recorded in Chicago on Halloween at the end of the Boys and Girls in America Tour, A Positive Rage is an unmixed, unpolished, virtually perfect Hold Steady.

The distorted guitar grabs our attention, and the piano jumps over it. “Stuck Between Stations” (off of Boys and Girls) starts. The almost unfinished feel to the song makes it seem like it was recorded on that barroom night, the night John Berryman could fly; it adds a certain in-the-moment quality to the song. “The Swish,” off of Almost Killed Me, has the same unmixed quality; the piano and the bass flow into the guitar so perfectly that you imagine being Craig Finn, hearing your band, and grinning as you rush into the lyrics.

The accidentals on the album similarly make it better; it shows a bit of the process that the band goes through (as the drummer stops tapping the symbol a few beats into one of the songs). There are very few of these mistakes, but they make it a live album at its core; just like the altered fills and the drunken voice, accidentals change the nature of the song oh so slightly.

My personal favorite track off of this album? I love the version of “Massive Nights”—it’s particularly improved by the live nature; there’s an urgency in Finn’s voice (matched by the bassline) that just isn’t on the track on Boys and Girls. I imagine Finn collapsing to his knees on “down on my knees” and looking into the audience while two kids in the upper balcony screamed the lyrics at each other. This track is also the epitome of the unmixed quality of the album, and the accidentals, especially shown at the end, where the guitar runs out and Finn brings us to the end.

Overall, the album is a worthy addition to the Hold Steady’s already impressive body of work; as a lover of the band, I recommend it without question. It’s like a little packaged concert.

NOTE: The songs linked to here are slightly different from the songs on A Positive Rage, being mixed more and not having the same raw quality. To listen to A Positive Rage (as of now), one must buy it or get it from a friend. Amazon link.


1 Comment so far
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The hold Steady are just exquisite.

Comment by cdv1971

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