Craig Finn and company leave the listener satisfied for the majority of the album, but its overall quality is diminished by a handful of tracks.
Razor & Tie, 2014
6.6 / 10
After a four year hiatus, The Hold Steady are back with Teeth Dreams. “Teeth Dreams” by definition are, “Ones rich in meaning; can deal with transitory times, personal growth, courage and assertiveness (or lack of it), or self-image concerns”.1 The Hold Steady have had a history of a Garage Rock sound accompanied by narrative-driven vocals from lead singer, Craig Finn. The band has been on the scene for over a decade now and have continuously impressed with their grit and lyrically-driven rock.
The album opens with the upbeat and hot-blooded track “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You”. On this song, lead singer Craig Finn melodically voices a narrative, in his classic sing-speak style, of a clash between mixing who he grew up with and who he’s become. He makes apologies and excuses that he himself seems only half-convinced of while singing, “For me it was mostly the music/ A crew to go to the shows with/ I guess I should’ve explained.” The song is a strong start to an album that portrays melancholy, burnt-out interpretations of people and society.
The Hold Steady remain true to their garage rock roots, yet throw a couple slow paced, classic-rock styled ballads on the album with songs like “Almost Everything”, “The Ambassador”, and album closer “Oaks”. These songs tended to be the most boring and uninspired of the album. Finn’s ruminations about life and everything in between fail to hit home on “Almost Everything”, and rather than ending the album with the otherwise impressive and gut-wrenchingly mawkish song, “Oaks”, The Hold Steady have a last minute jam session. After all the anxiety-inspired vocal narratives and guitar driven rock melted over hard-hitting drums, this 4 minute instrumental riffing feels somewhat out of place.
Overall the songs on Teeth Dreams all seem to elicit a similar feeling and outlook perhaps best described by rock legend Axl Rose of Guns ‘N Roses: “Life sucks, but in a beautiful kind of way.” While Teeth Dreams is not The Hold Steady’s best work, it is by no means a bad album. There are gems on the album — such as stand-out song “Spinners” — that remind the listener of their potential to rock, which consequently just increases the disappointment felt when hearing some of the more underwhelming cuts from the album.