18 August. That’s when Trashin Through the Passion was released. WTAF, you might be saying. Surely we’re better than that? I mention it merely to underline the problem. You wanted to read this review a time ago. And there’s a reason you didn’t. We’ll get to it.
Trashin Through the Passion is The Hold Steady’s seventh record. It doesn’t matter how you came to them. If you’ve reached para 2 you’ve reached para 2 for a reason. You probably love them, like wot I do. For me it was Separation Sunday back in 2005. That record primed me for Boys and Girls in America a year later. Then I was hooked: hooked on the riffs, hooked on the stories, hooked on the barked out vocals, hooked on the whole fucking weltanschaung. That’s right. You heard me. Weltanschaung. Look it up.
Since then I’ve had my downs (I wasn’t so crazy about Stay Positive) and my ups (Teeth Dreams is their classic as far as I’m concerned). I even dallied with frontman Craig Finn’s solo records. (I’m procrastinating. You can tell, can’t you?) Seven songs off of Trashin Through the Passion were released in advance: “Entitlement Crew,” “The Stove & The Toaster,” “Star 18” and “Confusion in the Marketplace/T-Shirt Tux”; then we had ‘Denver Haircut” and “You Did Good Kid” – the latter the first of the songs I’d heard that felt utterly vintage (if you of are of the ‘just download one song’ school, that’s the one to go for).
When the album dropped, I got in my car and drove. That’s the only way to listen to The Hold Steady outside of the gigs themselves (the only way to hear them really is half tanked, Craig Finn dashing from one side of the stage to the other). And I was disappointed. Yup. That’s right. Trashin Through the Passion just didn’t sit well with me. I blamed myself. I played it again. I drove further than I expected to. Turned around, headed home. Arrived home, kicked the cat. It was my fault. I knew it. What was up with me. All the constituent parts were present and correct: the crunchy guitars, the Springsteen-y keys, the sandpaper vocals. There was just something off.
I played the album and I played the album. Maybe I just needed to work for it. Maybe this was an album of songs I needed to earn. There were highlights, certainly. The aforementioned ‘You Did Good Kid’. ‘Blackout Sam’. Even ‘Traditional Village’. It’s not a bad album. Per se. It’s just not a great album either. It’s average. It feels like the kind of record a bunch of people might make when they’ve lost the eye of the tiger. That’s right. I went there too. But I still felt the problem was with me. It wasn’t the fault of the production (it might be the fault of the production). It wasn’t the fault of the sequencing (it might be the fault of the sequencing). Man, I was bummed. This was The Hold Steady. Come on. I put off writing the review. I ignored the Picky Bastards when they called. I didn’t answer the door when they came knocking. The weeks went by. September arrived. No Hold Steady review. Fuck.
Maybe we put this one down to really not wanting to say something bad about someone who has given me good times. There’s still Teeth Dreams. There’s still Separation Sunday. But – I so wanted to say you did good, kid. You did good, kid. Maybe I’ll go play it one more time. For old time’s sake. Maybe this time it will click. Maybe this time will be the charm.
Words by Pete Wild