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The Hold Steady Reaches New, Old Peaks

Not to be “that guy” or anything, but despite The Hold Steady’s sterling recent critical record — well, we happen to like the earlier stuff better. We didn’t expect this week’s new album A Positive Rage to change that, seeing as it’s a live album and all, but the mid-tempo groove “40 Bucks,” one of Rage’s two unreleased studio tracks, is an unexpected recent peak. Its careful storytelling wouldn’t feel out of place on the classic Separation Sunday: The protagonist here, a misguided girl who “stayed out too late again” chasing her favorite bands, sounds a lot like a PG version of Sunday’s hero Holly. Craig Finn sketches her sad story in loving, careful details (“they made her on the night they met in a motel made of cigarettes”), stringing images and stuffing words together as sharply as ever.

New Hold Steady - "40 Bucks" (Stereogum Premiere) [Stereogum]
Earlier: The Hold Steady and Music’s Booziest Bands and Artists

Photo: Getty Images