Anderson drops the brooding act and throws a party on his new record.
Jason Anderson seems to have left his sad bastard ways behind. Both of his last two records, the excellent New England and the solid The Wreath, were exercises in artful brooding, full of Anderson's creaking, tearjerker of a voice. But now, with Tonight, Anderson has done a complete 180. These nine songs find him most often doing his best E Street Band impression, and pulling it off nicely. These songs are simple and anthemic -- on opener "Tonight", Anderson employs a crowd of friends to be the answer to his call as they shout endlessly in the chorus "Tonight! Tonight!". The album is full of raucous crowd-pleasers, and apparently Anderson had a slew of people at his disposal, as gangs shout and hands clap over the bulk of the album. Jason and his crew celebrate the simple pleasures here -- Saturday night, the moment they're in, moving out of the 'burbs, the first snow -- and the celebration sounds big, with the songs full of loud drums and horn sections and Anderson's most spirited vocals in years (the casual passerby might mistake this for Buffalo Tom). Even on the slower, more wistful numbers, such as "So Long", Anderson sounds more reverent than forlorn. And while that particular number might be the weakest track, it is a nice break from an album full of encore fodder. These songs may be simple and run on too long, but they're too fun to dismiss. If the Hold Steady's party is all about the clever kids, Tonight is a shindig for the guileless, as Anderson leads us all away from our troubles and into a place where music can cure what ails you, if only temporarily.