In keeping with their moniker, The Hold Steady have become a byword for indie rock consistency over the years - always riotously good fun live, always solid in terms of their studio return, although perhaps lacking some of the incision of the releases that made their name; the state-of-the-nation reflections of ‘Boys and Girls in America’, and the freewheeling rock and roll of ‘Stay Positive’. The return of keyboardist Franz Nicolay to the fold has apparently reinvigorated the band and steered frontman Craig Finn away from some of the more self-indulgent tendencies that had come to underscore both ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ and ‘Teeth Dreams’. The panoramic fizz of ‘Family Farm’ is case in point, all rollicking guitars and tense piano breaks, while the buoyant trumpets and swaggering riffery of ‘Heavy Covenant’ hark back to the juxtaposition between triumphant instrumentation and Craig’s nervy storytelling that came to define their best work. There’s little in the way of new ground broken here, but it’s consistent nonetheless.
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Seven albums in, The Hold Steady are very much a band for their existing fans.