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- Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
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4/10 Robin Customer review, 9th July 2014
Craig Finn’s obsession with drunk kids in America took a backseat for his touching solo record, 'Clear Heart Full Eyes', in which he turned his attention to adults: be they heartbroken, mentally ill or afraid of Jesus. On 'Teeth Dreams', his literary and often spiritual dad rock is replaced with classic Hold Steady voltage – so of course the drugs and boozy nights out return. This time, though, they hang around like unwanted demons, things Finn just can’t shake.
'Teeth Dreams' strikes with the immediacy of older Hold Steady records, doling out the Springsteen idealism Finn has touted for years, but there’s a weariness to his songwriting; the story of a drug deal – “outside the carwash”, a lyric in typical Hold Steady clothing – stutters and falls on “Oaks”, which sounds like the band doing an impression of Low. The record’s opener, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You”, sounds like they’re character-acting, performing a narrow version of the band that riffs hard, climaxes well and ticks all the alt rock boxes.
Most unforgiveable, though, is the bizarre attention to detail in producing; the record’s characters are placed in songs that get outright mocked by producer Nick Raskulinecz and his sparkly but compacted approach. It sounds like he thinks this is a Rush record, or could be by the time he’s through with it. “On With the Business” has Finn at his most energised, but his brash storytelling and squealing chords are drenched in what sounds like the soundtrack from Super Mario 64’s “Jolly Roger Bay” playing in the backdrop. 'Teeth Dreams' boasts a mismatched aesthetic, a tired songwriter and a band coasting. The boys and girls in America are starting to sober up.
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