Indie. Alternative. Huh? Whatcha thinkin’ about? Things that are not played by MTV. Assuming that MTV plays any music at all since nowadays it reminds me more of a TV channel that broadcasts talk shows and reality shows only. So. Assuming MTV plays any music at all – “indie” or “alternative” labels is a sticker that marks everything that goes beyond MTV. Not necessarily that it’s a good thing but basically, deep down in our guts, we feel that it should be something extraordinary that just doesn’t fit any record label. Maybe cause it’s too experimental. Or maybe just because it’s waaayy too cool for any commercial TV/radio/record label. At least this is what we’re thinking.
Tell you what. That’s bullshit. No matter how much we hate record labels and how much we get pissed off when they try to rip us off on every single record that has ever been issued, sometimes we need to frankly admit that some so-called indie bands are just… not good enough.
And I’m very sorry but this is what I feel listening to the newest album by Hold Steady. It’s not a bad band, don’t get me wrong… It’s just that the album is, when speaking of its highlights, mediocre.
The whole thing is not so bad. Sorry – wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for a very unclear direction. Basically, I just don’t know what Hold Steady is trying to be. Is it an alternative folk rock band? Or is it a soft rock band rooted in the 1980’s? Is it trying to be somewhere in between Beck and Bruce Springsteen? Is it trying to be the American version of Coldplay, assuming Coldplay would ever want a corny 1980’s guitar solo? What is it? Cause after listening to Heaven Is Whenever several times I still cannot find any answer to this question.
There are a few songs that are absolutely sweet. Maybe not really amazing and different than anything else but just simply good. The opening folkish The Sweet Part of the City is one of them. The Smidge, which is clearly inspired by American blues and classic rock, is the other. The third one – I guess it would be Barely Breathing with a nice rock’n’roll rhythm and a brass section.
And that would basically be it! It’s not the problem that this album is bad. It’s just that… well, if you heard it on the radio, you wouldn’t even pay attention to it. Craig Finn, the vocalist, lyricist and frontman of Hold Steady, kept saying that this album is about (let’s hear it) “aging gracefully”. Well, yeah? To me it sounds less like “aging gracefully”, more like being old, tired and bored so much you’re not able to be creative anymore.
Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on. The musicians are clearly professional in what they’re doing. The vocal is a bit annoying but it has got some charm after all. The band seems to be just fine – even when playing a really boring and repetitive melody, it is kinda catchy, I have to admit that. However, all in all, it’s just something you would never ever want to spend a single penny on. What’s wrong? The only idea that comes to my mind is that the band lacks composing skills. Something went very wrong in the very beginning, when the band was on the stage of composing the songs which became part of the album. And I don’t know if it’s the problem of this particular band or just the general situation in which most of the indie bands find themselves. Bad studio engineering perhaps? Nobody around who would say: “we have to make it more commercial, so please, record a song that is different from all the other ten songs which just all sound the same?” I simply don’t know. I guess I’m just too bored of thousands of indie bands trying to prove how alternative they really are. Sorry, guys. I don’t care how it sounds but I’ll just put this CD back on the shelf and wait for July and for a completely sell out, commercial and money making album by Korn… LOL.