The Hold Steady: “Stay Positive” Continued, Plus “Ask Her For Adderall”

After my first thoughts on “Stay Positive”, we’re continuing to unpick a record that I’m now suspecting is The Hold Steady’s masterpiece. Allan has been even more dedicated in the pursuit of meaning than I have, assiduously studying John Cassavetes’ “Opening Night”, since Craig Finn mentioned that it had a critical influence on his lyrics, most explicitly in "Slapped Actress".

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After my first thoughts on “Stay Positive”, we’re continuing to unpick a record that I’m now suspecting is The Hold Steady’s masterpiece. Allan has been even more dedicated in the pursuit of meaning than I have, assiduously studying John Cassavetes’ “Opening Night”, since Craig Finn mentioned that it had a critical influence on his lyrics, most explicitly in “Slapped Actress”.



I’m reminded of Le Tigre’s “What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes” here (“Misogynist? Genius? Misogynist! Genius!”), not least because the treatment of women by some of Finn’s protagonists could be construed as a tad dubious (especially in “Magazines”). But anyway, Allan got hold the other day of the lyrics to the album, which I’m skimming as I type, and which only make the whole shifting narratives of “Stay Positive” even more engrossing.

One thing I hadn’t picked up before, but which various other blogs like Stereogum have spotted (along with my admittedly wet use of the word “bewitching”), are the Youth Of Today and 7 Seconds namedrops in “Stay Positive” itself. Given The Hold Steady’s generally epicurean rep, they don’t strike me as the sort of band who ever really embraced the Straight Edge lifestyle. But one of the things that I find compelling about the band is that vague hunch that they came – like me, I suppose, to a degree – to embracing American rock orthodoxy only after having been vigorously schooled in ‘80s hardcore and underground rock.

Which reminds me of a couple of things: one, that I really should check out Lifter Puller one of these days; and two, that Walter Schreifels (from Youth Of Today) has finally got around to making a second Rival Schools album, which I’m intrigued to hear since the first one, 2001’s “United By Fate”, was one of the last punk records to really excite me.

Amongst the lyrics that Allan received, there were the words to a song called “Ask Her For Adderall” which didn’t appear on our promos of “Stay Positive”. According to Wikipedia – and I really should check with the publicist to confirm this – the song will appear as a bonus track on the vinyl version. It features the only explicit reference to Holly and Charlemagne, and a brief look at Youtube reveals a bunch of live versions, with this one probably sounding the clearest.

The clip is from the 40 Watt Club, which is apt since, like “Constructive Summer”, it feels faintly reminiscent of early REM as well as, again Husker Du. Great song, too, and I’d have put it on the full album ahead of “Magazines”. But we’re nitpicking here. “Stay Positive” has leaked, apparently, so if you’re that way inclined, have a hunt around and report back, maybe?

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