Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive (Addendum)

The inevitable leak of The Hold Steady's fourth LP Stay Positive seemed to really get to them. However, instead of getting mad, it's almost like they've decided to reward everyone. First, there was the decision to move the iTunes release of Stay Positive up an entire month. Now, with the wait over, and the actual physical release of the CD here, the group (along with the folks at Vagrant) have decided to add 3 bonus tracks to the first 50k Cds sold. Way to punish us, dudes.

So, if you go out and pick up Stay Positive today, you will find the curious adding of a twelfth track. That twelfth track contains 3 songs from the Stay Positive sessions that didn't quite make the cut for the album. They are "Ask Her For Adderall," "Cheyenne Sunrise," and "Two Handed Handshake."

I've heard "Ask Her For Adderall" live, but, needless to say, it is a much different experience recorded. It has a similar feel to album opener "Constructive Summer," but the similarities are mostly in tempo. "Constructive Summer" relates a post-punk/Husker Du feel, where as "Ask Her For Adderall" is more in the vein of a sped up Springsteen throw-away track. It's quite typical lyrically--we even get the return of Holly, Charlemagne, and Gideon--if not a bit darker than they are used to. But it is all momentum, and ends as quickly as it starts, which weirdly works in its favor.

"Cheyenne Sunrise" is more of a barroom ballad affair. I can see why it didn't make the album, though. Superficially it's just a bit too similar to "Lord, I'm Discouraged." However, thematically, it actually almost works as the much darker, male counterpart to "Joke About Jamaica."

"Two Handed Handshake" is, without a doubt, the best of the lot here. If "Slapped Actress" wasn't already the best song that The Hold Steady have ever done, I would say that this would be a perfect track to close Stay Positive. "Two Handed Handshake" is a damn near epic plea to all of us boys and girls in America to "try a little harder," to "be a little better," and to fucking "pull it back together." Damned if you don't want to do all of those things after listening.

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