Heavy Covenant – The Hold Steady

This is the second track to be released ahead of the new album Open Door Policy. It seems like only moments ago we were treated to Family Farm. That got me optimistic. This Heavy Covenant has me positively beaming. Famous for their strong openers it held its own alongside Sequestered In Memphis, Hurricane J and The Swish.

I have been thinking of Thrashing Thru The Passion as ‘the new one’ for about as long as it’s possible to consider an album new. Given that we had two thirds of the tracks on that last record as digitised virtual seven inches for quite a while before the record was even slated it feels good for a whole album of new Unified Scene singalong songs to be imminently upon us. I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed that when the last new THS record ceased to be Stuck Between Stations there was only one side of unreleased material. The follow up EP Four On Ten mopped up the B-Sides and gave us one more studio track. Since then there’s been anniversary editions of albums I still consider part of the new stuff loaded with unreleased gubbins and no shortage of ‘new’ THS or Craig Finn stiuff to get into but I feel Thrashing deserves it’s own rep now. It’s a complecx, interesting, clever and fun album. Full of ideas. Way less straight forward than the Sans Franz era’s Heaven Is Whenever or Teeth Dreams.

Now we have two new songs and a hint of how Open Door Policy is going to shape up. So… What is Heavy Covenant like?

It’s got a long electric organ sound as an opening gambit and some pace setting drums rocking up the intro. It’s like going to a modernist church. You know the types with weird art for a crucifix, unconventional ideas of stained glass and long sloping 70’s roof. It’s a place of worship but constructed of new materials, with things like central heating and electric light built in. By the time we get to the dur dur dur dur parps and the honking of horns you know THS are finding their way on new ground. Unfurling that flag of defiance that mixes familiar tropes with new directions just right. This is a domesticated lyric for Finn yet it holds a bucket of emotion.

“With the wineglass on the microwave and the ashtray in the kitchenette I could tell that it was difficult to bring that sort of subject up”

The panic prone among you can relax. Franz is still back in the band. I know on Thrashing that got everyone excited. The donds on this track though? They have to go to Bobby Drake on drums. He’s showboating like a firework. Not an easy claim on a track so very full of other stuff. Not to say that the six and four stringers are slouching you understand.

There’s an almost AC/DC baseline from Galen and some classic guitar shapes from Steve and my personal guitar hero Mr Kubler. They’re just not doing Led Zeppelin or even Cheap Trick this time. The Cars and The Time spring to mind. There’s a tad of The Knack and a Smidge of The Cardiacs in there too. And as is becoming increasingly obvious a dexterity The Attractions or The Heartbreakers would be proud of. That organ though Man!

“That’s a pretty heavy covenant to make with someone powerless, he said he’ll ask about that other stuff if you’re still prepared to pay for it”

I can’t wait for Open Door Policy to kickstart my most anticipated record collecting of new music in 2021. On the strength of the two songs so far they’ve not just held things steady they’ve vanquished any fear of a Multitude of Casualties reeling from Sketchy Metal. Believe it or not 2021 started with A Positive Jam after all. Clearly The Ambassadors had a Constructive lockdown. They’ve Thrashed Through Rock Problems and they’ve scaled mighty Oaks to bring those of us Barely Breathing the Sweet Part of the City to our Traditional Village. Until We Can Get Together in the Hot Soft Light we can listen to the Same Kooks who brought us so many Massive Nights at the Party Pit and dream about How A Resurrection Really Feels.

Now that’s a Heavy Covenant.

Thanks for listening, thanks for understanding

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