Raise your glass. Raise your fist. Raise hell. Amen.
The first time I heard The Hold Steady, I nearly shed a tear. Okay, maybe I actually did shed a tear. I don't really know what it was. I mean, 2006 had been a tough year that had followed another tough year. "Boys and girls in America--they have such a sad time together." Some things are just the straw that broke the camel's back, ya know? And some things are the spark that set the fire. I suppose The Hold Steady are sorta both to me.
Minneapolis' (even though they're living in Brooklyn like every other damned band these days) The Hold Steady rock. They roll. They sing anthems. They sing stories. There are recurring characters and places in their songs that you don't know but have known all your sorry-assed life. They are the dealers, the waiters, waitresses, bartenders, skeezy friends who crashed on your couch, girls you were ashamed of but kept calling--they are the most relevant of all the irrelevant characters in your life who you're done with but are not done with you. The music reminds you of why you're still going out, still boozing hard, still hanging out with the wrong crowd even though it's killing you. And yet somehow, it's all about how all that misery and pain and distraction and short-sightedness is the most beautiful fucking part of life. This is rock music that bleeds and sweats and pushes. What "got" me and still "gets" to me about The Hold Steady is the passion of the music. Whereas so much lyrical work sounds like another disconnected third person narrative, every snarling word of front man Craig Finn has you believing he has lived and continues to live these words. Yeah, it's heartbreak and redemption and so much of what rock is about. But The Hold Steady carry a sincerity that's extremely rare.
This week's playlist was hard to whittle down to only twelve songs. They have four excellent records you can read more about and I strongly encourage you to check them out. The playlist includes tracks from all four of these albums, including a live combined version of "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" and "Killer Parties". The Hold Steady are, without question, a band whose live act matches the power of their studio recordings. This final live track on the playlist is just a taste of it and I think you need to get your lame ass out to see them if you can! My favorite of their studio albums is still the nearly perfect Boys and Girls in America--a gorgeous collection of Born to Run-esque anthems that tell stories that hit closer to home regarding times in my life I don't always care to confront. The album was my first tear-jerking exposure to the rock 'n' roll brilliance of The Hold Steady and I'd say it's a great place to start if you're interested. So if you are looking for a little bit of rock power salvation, visit the Church of The Hold Steady. You'll walk away feeling reborn.