The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams

On the surface at least, very little has changed.

Label: Washington Square

Rating:

Three years on from ‘Heaven is Forever’, sixth album ‘Teeth Dreams’ could have come at any point during The Hold Steady’s ten year career thus far. On the surface at least, very little has changed. The band still insists on riding their brand of likeable rock n roll, punk roots and America-centric storytelling, yet there are a few noticeable tweaks to the band here.

The influence of producer Nick Raskulinecz, whose work with the Foo Fighters, Deftones and erm, Rush, is apparent from the start. The opening minute of ‘I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You’ is noticeably more muscular than anything in the band’s back catalogue, largely thanks to the addition of guitarist Steve Selvidge. Yet this new asset to the team feels woefully underused beyond this track, as the band seemingly choose to take the line of least resistance and go on cruise control.

Lyrically, the band’s trademark themes are still largely present, but some of that sparkle that made 2006’s ‘Boys and Girls in America’ such an intimate piece of work and the sheer dynamism that propelled its successor ‘Stay Positive’ is often lacking here. The band’s rough edges and spiky riffs have over the last few years gradually been worn down, shifting their sound ever closer to straightforward classic rock, exemplified here in the slightly unnecessary guitar solo that dominates the second half of ‘Spinners’.

The band’s strength has always been their ability to craft anthemic rock songs that reminisce in long hot summer nights, past glories and the idolisation of enigmatic women (‘The Only Thing’). The laid back ‘Almost Everything’ gets closest to reproducing some of those finer moments, and is by far their most contemplative track here. Craig Finn’s rousing vocals still provide the focal point for a lot of the songs, yet frequently, such as on ‘Runner’s High’, the mid-tempo melodies and lifeless riffs lead frustratingly to nowhere.

Whilst Teeth Dreams isn’t a bad album, it feels pedestrian and ordinary compared to what The Hold Steady are capable of.