Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
All the End of the Decade lists are pointing to either Almost Killed Me or Boys and Girls in America as The Hold Steady's contribution of their albums to the last 10 years. I say that Separation Sunday was head and shoulders better, even if all you've got is the first three tracks ("Hornets! Hornets!," "Cattle and The Creeping Things," and "Your Little Hoodrat Friend.").
Boys and Girls in America was what Hold Steady frontman and songwriter Craig Finn had seen and felt, as the crowds coming to his shows got huge and the record was buzzed massively. It's a real feeling. But Separation Sunday was balls to the wall, everything he had, everything we've all seen down in the dirt. It's the ups and downs of life to a soundtrack that thoroughly kicks the listeners ass (a sentiment that, to be fair, is true of every one of the albums from The Hold Steady).
Somewhere along the way, people started making Springsteen comparisons. Maybe because the Hold Steady jams the way they say the E Street Band used to. Aside from that - which may or may not be true - I don't see the comparison because where Springsteen is putting it on for whatever the common man is supposed to be, Finn is singing about the underbelly of the teen years and early 20s and probably beyond. You know, the ones that everybody pines for. The ones that so-called adults like to act like they've forgotten about, even as they try desperately to reclaim them.
I dug the The Hold Steady at half Finn's age because he sings ironically about smoking pot and soaking up rock and roll and weaves bible stories into modern tales of suburban growing up. "I always like the guy at door," Finn sings, "cause he always knows what you came to his house for." Separation Sunday is full of wordy anthems with lines like that from start to finish. Words that everyone from the 70s on know about. Yeah, Finn "can't stand it when the banging stops," and neither can we.
But by the time The Hold Steady got to Boys and Girls in America, one of the best albums of the decade for sure, for a couple years he'd been watching 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds that hate each other now get down together to jams about stuff one is living and one used to live but doesn't remember how to get back to. Boys and Girls in America is about both of them. Separation Sunday, among other things, is about the times that both love and hate and never want to give up, and that alone makes it a better album.
(In reality, all the band's albums do this. My preference has more to do with bitterness that Separation Sunday is getting no attention due either to these bloggers "their first album was the best" or "thier biggest album is the best" sentiments. In reality, YOU should download all of them.)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Despite the song posted above, I've had one of the verses from "Materialist" in my head for several weeks now.* Not sure why - I do occasionally think about concepts bigger than I - but it made me pull out BR's 12th, The Process Of Belief. Or, as I like to call it, their comeback album.
Decent as the preceding two albums may be (No Substance and The New America), drummer Bobby Schayer's career-ending shoulder injury is one of two things that contributes to The Process of Belief working as well as it does. New drummer Brooks Wakerman returned the speed and pounding to the original melodic hardcore punk rockers, and brought a sense of youth to a clearly greying but no less intense rhythm and vocal section.
The other is the full reunion of the Greg Graffin-Brett Gurewitz writing team. Graffin did more than well on the hugely underrated The Gray Race, but two albums that followed made one wonder if the band was on its last legs.
Previous albums, and I do mean all of them, balance a mix of introspection and worldly vague political discourse. Sometimes this was something a little more direct, as on "Operation Rescue," "American Jesus," "Fertile Crescent," or even this album's "Kyoto Now," but mostly the scientific and societal statements could stand separate from current events. Almost entirely, though, The Process of Belief is very much a band taking a look at itself.
Both Graffin and Gurewitz spend the album lyrically examining themselves from a religious standpoint, or under the guise of self-perceived failure, or even from age, as I'm pretty sure Graffin is doing on "Supersonic."
The song finds Graffin opening the album wondering if the world is passing him by, and that the solution is to simply speed up. For me then, at 20, as it does now, the "Supersonic" is a mantra. To a certain extent, I am a careerist workaholic and always have been. I have long had some sort of direction and, when I'm at my best, speed forward with a smooth burn.
Interestingly, the song kicks off an album proving the same to be true of Bad Religion.
*The verse in my head: "The process of belief is an elixir when you're weak/I must confess at times I indulge it on the sneak/But generally my outlook's not so bleak."
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday morning, I went into surgery to have an infection drained - a somewhat solo mission if ever there has been one - a little freaked out but, thankfully, significantly drugged up. Heh, as if there's any other way to go into surgery.
Monday, November 9, 2009
By now, everybody has heard of The Dead Weather: Jack White, Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Jack Lawrence from The Raconteurs and Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age.
The album is great and hasn't left my iPod since it leaked. But sitting in the car, outside a store, watching trees and bushes whip around, something about this sinister movie-soundtrack-sounding track caught me.
The fact is, there's not much menace in any of White's other bands. There's lots of other things, but little if any menace. The heavy menace of "So Far From Your Weapon" has had this song on repeat for me for days now.