The Hold Steady – A Positive Rage

A Positive Rage (2009)


1. Intro 2. Stuck Between Stations 3. The Swish 4. Chips Ahoy 5. Massive Nights 6. Ask Her For Adderall 7. Barfruit Blues 8. Same Kooks 9. You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came With) 10. Lord, I’m Discouraged 11. You Can Make Him Like You 12. Your Little Hoodrat Friend 13. South Town Girls 14. Citrus 15. First Night 16. Girls Like Status 17. Killer Parties 18. Ask Her For Adderall 19. Cheyenne Sunrise 20. Two Handed Handshake 21. 40 Bucks 22. Spectres


Live album that’s nice ‘n sloppy and drunk like a bar band should be. However, that means that the full show documented on A Positive Rage—recorded on Halloween night ’07 at the Metro in Chicago—was probably best appreciated in person when you would’ve been sloppy and drunk yourself and your night ended face down in the alley with a welt the shape of Louisiana on your face courtesy of the cute chick you tried to finger after your sixth shot of Patron because you’re a humungous douchebag and you disgust me. I don’t even want you reading this site. Go away.

Oh, no, not YOU! Just that one asshole. Now that’s he’s gone, I can tell you more about this record. If you already like the Hold Steady, you’ll like this album because they play a bunch of great Hold Steady songs pretty much totally straight. If you don’t like the Hold Steady you’ll probably laugh at the drunken buffoon purported to be the band’s singer. Like 99.5% of the appeal of Craig’s stage act is in the visuals – the exaggerated arm movements, the clapping, the hopping around like an eight-year old fresh off his ADD meds, the projectile spittle guaranteed to douse the first few rows. But left with the aural-only .5%, this is just a parade of Hold Steady songs with rougher vocals, which they could nary afford in the first place. I mean, I can see what Craig’s doing up there in my mind’s eye and I can thus identify great showmanship when I hear it (like when he goes to a mocking falsetto on “Barfruit Blues” – hilarious!). But less clued-in listeners will probably be more apt to notice Craig becoming a babbling mess by show’s end (just what the FUCK is he doing at the beginning of “Killer Parties”? That’s almost Jim Morrison-level incoherence). See, this is why traditional live albums are outdated and stupid – you’re only getting, at maximum, half the package. (Actually, there is a bonus DVD that comes with the album, but it’s not a concert film, just a sort of glossy rip-off half hour collection of concert clips and interviews that comes across as the sort of thing the band’s PR company would send out to music magazines. Nothing you’ll ever watch more than once).

Furthermore, there’s nothing all that special musically going on to make up for the vocal inefficiencies. Tad’s guitar tone is nice and crunchy, but also sludgy, and as a result the riffs don’t have the same bite they did in the studio. The setlist is excellent and includes gems like the rockin’ Almost Killed Me-era b-side “You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came With)” and a couple of songs from the then-soon-to-be-released Stay Positive. But while everything is well-played and fun, not one of the renditions on here will make you want to return to it over its studio counterpart, except maybe the extendo-version of “Killer Parties.”

Fortunately, there’s a bonus disc with five studio outtakes from the Stay Positive sessions! And they’re great! OK, maybe not “Cheyenne Sunrise,” a laid back lounge country ballad that sounds disturbingly like the Eagles (though maybe I’m just inclined to think that because the titles sounds like it should be an Eagles song). But “Ask Her For Adderall” rocks mercilessly and should definitely have been included on the album. It reminds me of my friends, who all take Adderall and Klonopin so they can write essays! Not me, though. My academic work is powered mostly by PBR and Tostitos Hint of Lime chips.

Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m a responsible student. I do all my schoolwork sober! My reviews, on the other hand…

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