There are bands that constantly reinvent themselves and bands that make refinement their cause. The Hold Steady is of the latter ilk, toiling endlessly to define and refine its rough and tumble rock songs served with Pabst Blue Ribbon swagger. More importantly, each of the band’s albums has felt like the one that Craig Finn and his cohorts were born to make. And Heaven is Whenever is no different.
The opening simmer of “The Sweet Part of the City,” complete with pedal steel flourishes, is subtle in sound but not in lyricism, Finn waxing, “But it’s a long haul to the corner store from the center of the universe when you can’t get your car off the curb.” Subtlety is quickly replaced, though, with The Hold Steady’s forte: raucous rock and roll. The band grinds through “Soft in the Center” and regales loosely across “Our Whole Lives,” while still taking time to slow things down, like on the drifting intro of “The Weekenders” and the delicately crawling “We Can Get Together.” Those baptized in the barroom light by The Hold Steady will likely miss Franz Nicolay’s accompaniment, but his departure doesn’t render the band’s sound any less varied or impactful. In fact, The Hold Steady hasn’t exposed this much distinction on a single album to date.
Heaven is Whenever is yet another solid album from one of the most consistent bands on the scene. There are no tricks here, no sleight of hand; just genuine rock and roll.
Heaven is Whenever is out now on Vagrant / Rough Trade.