Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Hold Steady Resurrect Rock Lyricism:

I like music that rocks my socks off, but doesn't insult my intelligence. The Hold Steady fit the bill perfectly. I haven't liked a new band this much in a long time. Hearing this energetic punky rock version of The Band helps me get off the couch with the most important lesson I ever got from Punk Rock:

Anger is An Energy

However, it's The Clash that gets the nod in the song Constructive Summer:

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

They've built something, indeed, this band from Brooklyn and Minneapolis. It's a little early to know if they are going to be anointed for anything yet, so the title of this review is a little tongue in cheek. But just a little.

Perhaps this is why I'm I'm so amped: Listening to Stay Postitive, I feel charged with that adolescent fervor that clues me in that this band rocks. The drummer is killer. The musicianship is disciplined, but not too conservative, which I like. They are not afraid to take a riff out on a limb and shake those peaches. There's some superior riffage here.

If this were a professional review I'd be obligated to single out and name-check the lyricist in this band. But in deference to the team spirit embodied in their latest outing, Stay Positive, I'm going to just say that the stories in these songs are fantastic. There's an eye for detail that would make Lou Reed proud.

One of my favorite moments, from the elusive "Sequestered in Memphis":

It started when we were dancing.
It got heavy when we got to the bathroom.
We didn't go back to her place,
we went to some place where she cat sits.
She said, "I know I look tired,
but every thing's fried here in Memphis."

Now they want to know exactly which bathroom.
Dude, does it make any difference?
It can't be important.
Yeah, sure I'll tell my story again...

In bar light she looked alright.
In daylight she looked desperate.
That's alright, I was desperate too.
I'm getting pretty sick of this interview.

Subpoenaed in Texas.
Sequestered in Memphis

There's plenty Hitchcockian knowledge on display in the Hold Steady's dense lyricism. They know that some things are truly better left unsaid. It gives a thrill. There's as much going on underneath the surface of the lyrics as there is right on top, so I can rock out or tune in as I please.

Check it out for yourself.
Buy Stay Positive at Amazon here.


Brian said...

Dan -- I tried the CD after reading your post, and I'm definitely enjoying it.

Keep the recommendations coming.

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