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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me
French Kiss

"I got bored when I didn't have a band/ So I started a band, man."

First there was Lifter Puller, AKA "Minneapolis cult band Lifter Puller," who broke up in summer 2000 just as their post-Pavement, twisted story-world of rave-era dissolution and wasted youth was finding a wider audience. Craig Finn, Lifter Puller's vocalist and guitarist, and Tad Kubler (LP's bassist, now on lead guitar) moved to Brooklyn and hooked up with fellow Midwest expats Judd Counsell (drums) and Galen Polivka (bass). They're the Hold Steady, their first album is finally out, and it's incredible.

"Baby, take off your beret/ Everyone's a critic and most people are DJ's."

It's tough to explain just what, exactly, the Hold Steady have got goin' on. Essentially, they hotwire Finn's Lifter Puller vocal delivery onto beer-blast classic rock, but that's like saying Guided by Voices add Bob Pollard's spin to some old Who songs — a bit of a fucking understatement. Finn's vocals and stage mannerisms — stepping back for machine-gun handclaps, hits in the face, mouthing extra words like the voices don't stop when the mic's not there — would be enough to get almost any band over, but THIS band rocks like Bad Company and Thin Lizzy and vintage Springsteen. Look out.

"People call me One-Hour Photo/ I got some hazardous chemicals, so drive around to the window."

In almost every Hold Steady song, someone takes something or drinks something, usually too much of it. (Not even always something you've heard of; a friend of mine was driven to investigate the line, "Ginger and Jack and four or five Feminax." It's better not to know.) There's a middle-size-town vibe — chasing that feeling to fight off the boredom, the young bartenders and not-so-young waitresses and barflies, the same faces you see at every show and every house party, the scene. It's not just the Midwest, but almost a Walt Whitman embrace of the whole mess of America, from "Hostile, Mass." to the stoner California kids. And it teeters on the fine line between the party and the hangover, because every late night that bleeds into the next morning is maybe actually another step closer to somewhere you didn't want to be. But it's a blast in the meantime.

"I keep tryin' to get people to call me Sunny D/ 'cause I got the good stuff kids go for."

Since the Hold Steady are a little hard to explain, they can be hard to get into right off the bat. The lyrics can come off as being jokey in print, or even on records, but give it time (and especially see them live) and it will all fall into place. Among the many cool things about Finn's lyrics is that the same phrases and characters pop up in different songs, turning them into snatches of something bigger to decode. The Hold Steady's Charlemagne and Gideon aren't as fleshed out as Lifter Puller's Jenny, Nightclub Dwight and the Eyepatch Guy, but give 'em time — it's only the first album.

"Certain songs they get so scratched into our souls."

At first the songs that stick out on ... Almost Killed Me are the rockers, the glammed-out swagger of "The Swish" and the shit-hot sax on "Hostile, Mass." Then there's the slower ones — "Sketchy Metal" and its crazy Jesus verse, and the ballad "Certain Songs," kind of a "Piano Man" for the jaded, calling out the jukebox classics "from the Meat Loaf to the Billy Joel." But the lines that really give me the shivers are in the coda to "Most People Are DJ's," after they've cut through the problems and hassles and fights and being sick of even going to shows that don't turn out to be much, and wondering whether it's worth it: "A thousand kids will fall in love in all the clubs tonight/ A thousand other kids will end up gushing blood tonight/ Two thousand kids they won't get too much sleep tonight/ Two thousand kids they still feel pretty sweet tonight."

The Hold Steady feel pretty sweet.

by Dave Renard

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