The Hold Steady have never been big on “happy” songs. But, somehow Craig Finn and his gang always found a way to see hope in the lost and downtrodden souls that find themselves a subject of the band’s songs. This hope however, is almost nonexistent in their new album Teeth Dreams.
The album gets its title from the common phenomenon where a person dreams of having his or her teeth fall out or crumble in his or her mouth. In psychology, these dreams represent fear and anxiety regarding one’s outward appearance. So, from the very beginning the band clues the listener in on the darker, more angst filled lyrics that the album delivers. The opening song “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” (which Finn has confessed to being his favorite) relates a story of a reunion with old friends that must seem disturbing to an outsider. In the end, the narrator is left with nothing to say but that, “there was a side of this city I didn’t want you to see” and even admit that he himself was terrified by the blast from his past. Clearly, this song is not painting a hopeful picture.
Musically, the album features heavy guitar riffs reminiscent of the classic ‘80s anthems that the band was raised on. Like the last album Heaven is Whenever, the new album Teeth Dreams does not feature the unique rawness of lead singer Craig Finn’s voice as much as their early releases. Instead Finn lets the instrumentals take the lead and weaves his notorious spoken story lyrics amongst the chords and fills.
All in all, Teeth Dreams never lives up to the creative genius that characterized the band’s early albums. Some lyrics leave you wanting more. It’s hard to imagine lines like “this town was so much fun, when there weren’t so much [sic] police” making the cut anywhere in Boys and Girls in America. But still, The Hold Steady are always a welcome refresher in the modern music scene and a reminder that rock is not dead. So, whether you are a “sniffling indie kid” or an old school lover of Rock n’ Roll, Teeth Dreams is worth giving a listen.