Heaven is Whenever

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Heaven is Whenever
Composer: The Hold Steady
Label: Vagrant Records
Release Date: 2010-04-28
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
Length: LP
Format: Album
Genre: Recording

All that partying and drug use (or at least all the recording of songs about it) appears to have aged the Hold Steady prematurely. In just five short years, they’ve gone from indulging the banal biblical musings of “born again hoodrats” just to sleep with (or at least score drugs off) them on breakthrough Separation Sunday, to advising some “kid” on “Soft in the Center”: “You can’t get every girl/ You’ll get the ones you love the best/ You won’t get every girl/ You’ll love the ones you get the best.” Even more tellingly, “We Can Get Together” informs the song’s subject “Heaven is whenever/ we can get together/ and listen to your records,” and though Craig Finn’s lyrics have been typically so obsessed with Christians, heaven here exists entirely in the lyrics to favorite songs. But the chorus to “The Smidge” says it all, really: “We used to want it all, now we just want a little bit.” They’ve carved their niche — classic-rock-radio chops (they play a little with the sound but never get more experimental than, say, a Joe Walsh album) clashing pleasantly with Finn’s cynical, chemical-fueled humanism — and they show about as much interest in crawling back out as they do in boning the world’s many, many troubled ladies. “Hurricane J,” which could be an outtake from My Aim Is True, describes exactly the kind of girl Finn would’ve pined for on albums past — a waitress intent on pissing her life away — but these days, he’s content to let her pass: “You’re a beautiful girl, and you’re a pretty good waitress/ but Jessie I don’t think I’m the guy.” — Jeremy Martin

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