THE HOLD STEADY – Boys And Girls In America (Vagrant)

After loving their debut album, obviously their new one had a lot to live up to, and they have done it by the simple expedient of giving us more of the same. ‘Chips Ahoy’ is the story of a love affair cut short by gambling and drugs, but set to an upbeat tune with a jaunty organ and guitar solo. ‘Same Kooks’ is a rollicking bar-room brawl of a tune, with the band on storming form throughout. ‘First Night’, on the other hand, is a love song – surprisingly touching given the tone of what has gone before, with its lyrics providing the title of the album. ‘Party Pit’ is also a love song of sorts, but this time more of what we have become used to – picking up a girl at a party, leaving her to go to college, and then being surprised when she doesn’t drop everything when you come back. The solution? ‘Gonna walk around and drink some more’! ‘Chillout Tent’ is another drugs and rock’n’roll song, while the album ends with the less than complimentary tribute of ‘Southtown Girls’ – ‘they won’t blow you away, but you know that they’ll stay’. Musically this album is less frenetic than their debut, but they have kept up the wit of the lyrics and the quality of the playing, and with its new-found maturity who knows whether this might be the album for which The Hold Steady will be remembered.