Certain Songs #604: The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer”

hold_steady -stay_positive-frontal Album: Stay Positive
Year: 2008

Some of you might have noticed that one of the things I really like in an artist is prolificness.

And by the standards of the 21st century, putting out their three albums in three years, the Hold Steady were absolutely on fire. So to me, the two years between the world-beating Boys and Girls in America and the 2008 follow-up seemed almost interminable.

All of which was instantly forgiven the second “Constructive Summer” came pouring out of the speakers, combining Tad Kubler’s punk riff with Franz Nicolay’s Jerry Lee Lewis piano and maybe Craig Finn’s best opening verse ever.

Me and my friends are like
The drums on “Lust for Life”
We pound it out on floor toms
Our psalms are sing-along songs

Man. It was great to have them back, this band that somehow crammed nearly every other band I ever loved into their super-smart, super-rocking songs.

Summer grant us all the power
To drink on top of watertowers
With love and trust and shows all summer
(Get hammered!)

Let this be my annual reminder
That we could all be something bigger

“Constructive Summer” perfectly captures the essence of first week of summer, when you’re still reeling from the last days of class, but you know that you have just limited amount of time to get the shit done you wanna get done.

And with Tad Kubler’s guitar squealing around the edges, the last verse nearly tops the first.

Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer
I think he might have been our only decent teacher
Getting older makes it harder to remember
We are our only saviours
We’re gonna build something this summer

An absolute scorcher from start start to finish — even the piano-driven breakdown burns and crashes — “Constructive Summer” a near-perfect way to kick off what turned out to be the difficult follow-up album.

And if Stay Positive turned out to be a skosh too restless — some of the experiments slightly off, some of the rockers slightly rote — I still loved it nearly as much as the two titanic records that proceeded it.

“Constructive Summer” performed live in 2009

Fan-made video for “Constructive Summer”

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