It’s been said that The Hold Steady are the greatest damn bar band in all of the land, but these days that assessment may not of the glowing connotation that whoever said that once meant it to have. Somewhere in the middle of planning for the band’s last album Heaven is Whenever, long time keyboardist Franz Nicolay came to the conclusion that his work with the band was done and just like that, he was out of the band. The resulting record was spotty at best and at worst seemed disconnected from everything that had made The Hold Steady so great to begin with.
Before, it had always seemed as if singer Craig Finn was a major player in his tales of druggy, reckless youth gone wild. After Nicolay’s departure the focus shifted less on the band and directly onto Finn, who whatever reason seemed to be outside of his stories now. The shift in narrative focus was even made more jarring by the absence of Nicolay’s joyful keyboards in favor of more traditional arrangements. The point is, is that it just wasn’t the same.