The Hold Steady's Open Door Policy finds new life beyond the burn-out

Brooklyn’s anthemic bar rockers The Hold Steady tell stories featuring a litany of beaten characters on Open Door Policy, but there's light in the darkness

The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy
(Image: © Positive Jams)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Run as hard as you might, the good times will catch up with you. If the party kids, gamblers and libertines that raged through the dive-bar Springsteen anthems of The Hold Steady’s breakthrough album Boys And Girls In America in 2006 showed early signs of addiction and psychological issues, 15 years on they’re full-blown fuck-ups. 

Open Door Policy, THS’s eighth record, is a litany of drug addicts, cheats, deadbeats and the mentally demolished. 

Even the band themselves, attempting to merge the rejuvenated elation of 2019’s Thrashing Thru The Passion with the more serious records that preceded it, sound like they’re grabbing at big choruses like an alcoholic scrabbling for a bedside breakfast whisky.

But on The Feelers, the motoric Spices and Me & Magdalena, Craig Finn’s sneered diatribe about a manipulative rock junkie, they nonetheless stumble across a rich, National-like lustre of dark grooves and opiated euphoria. 

And even this broken, they can still party: Family Farm, a jubilant mariachi rock blast (complete with flagrant steal from Weezer’s Surf Wax America) even manages to find the upside in being sectioned.

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle.