Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy [Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers, 2021]
Craig Finn made his name as a musical storyteller with plots that always seemed to involve the drug life. Early on he specialized in alt-rock kids, but as he aged--and he was already past 30 when his band went public--his characters did too, with fewer escape hatches built into their compromised bacchanals. Barely getting by by now, many of his subjects--especially those chronicled under the Hold Steady brand, with the solo albums somewhat rangier--have been around the block so many times the sidewalk feels like a treadmill. So it's notable that on this album there are fewer outright losers. The title track reports from a party hosted by a minor billionaire; one narrator brags that he sells software to "hospitals and local government"; Magdalena's thing with the singer in L.A. fell apart but she still has it in her to head back to Scranton and clean up at her girlfriend's place. I find this so refreshing I wish everybody involved good luck. B+