It’s an arresting image, seeing The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn sitting in a London hotel drinking coffee, his lyrics usually chronicle American bars.
He’s a storyteller in the same vein as Bruce Springsteen. It’s little wonder there’s such a crossover between the two sets of fans.
The band’s sixth album, Teeth Dreams, released at the end of March, finds them in rude health four years after the release of previous album, 2010’s Heaven Is Whenever.
“We’d made five records in six years, and we were tired. Well, I was at least,” says Finn. “We needed a break. We needed to refresh some ideas. We couldn’t have made a record in 2012 after touring, but if we had tried, it wouldn’t have been that exciting.”
He goes on to explain that as most of 2011 was taken up with touring, 2013 was spent writing and recording, and this year has seen them prepare the album for its eventual release - it was only really 2012 that they took off. And during that year, Finn released a solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes.
“And even with a break, we’ve still released six albums in 10 years,” says guitarist Tad Kubler, chiming in for the first time. “However you look at it, that’s fast.”
The break has clearly done them good, though. Teeth Dreams, a sort of companion piece to the best of their past work on third and fourth albums Boys And Girls In America and Stay Positive, is full of energy. Opener, I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You, is a case in point, fast and vigorous, while On With The Business features some of Finn’s best lyrics over a taut, claustrophobic sounding backing.
The latter is Finn’s examination of consumerism, with choruses that reference ‘the American Sadness’, a term coined by late author David Foster Wallace to describe the way people buy more stuff in a futile bid to fill the un-fillable hole in their lives.