Raved about in the US since their 2004 debut 'Almost Killed Me', New York-based quintet The Hold Steady's billing as rock 'n' roll saviours has now reached across the Atlantic with the release of 'Boys and Girls in America'. At its best this album does plenty to make you think they live up to the hype.
Continuing the stories of the characters Gideon, Charlemagne and Holly from previous albums - breathe easy, it never plays as pretentious as it reads - singer Craig Finn and his bandmates move between slow, sad songs and party soundtracks, managing to sound big enough for stadiums and small enough for backrooms.
Finn's range as a vocalist is no thing of wonder but he's perfect for these misfit adventures and his talent as a lyricist can make you laugh ("I had my mouth on her nose, when the chaperone said we were dancing too close") or think hard ("lost in fog and love and faithless fear, I've had kisses that make Judas seem sincere"). There are plenty more where they came from, and they're usually wrapped around a great chorus too.
'Boys and Girls in America' is one of those rarities: an album that can grab you from the outset but still grow on you. It deserves to mean a lot to a lot of people, and if you're someone who thinks there just isn't enough piano on rock records any more, then the smile will be welded to your face.