Monday, January 25, 2010

TK #3: The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005)

The first time I heard “Hornets! Hornets!” (the first song on this monster) was the first time I heard The Hold Steady. I had read a favorable and intriguing review of an unknown band and ordered the disc sound-unheard. When it came in the mail, I ripped off the plastic and tossed it in the player, and my first reaction was to laugh. They came on like an aging metal bar band, with the pick scraping up the neck (zoom!) and the double-voiced Thin Lizzy guitars. Is this a joke? No, I think they’re serious. Still, I’ll confess, it didn’t make sense at first. But over time, things started to rise to the fore: “Do you want to me to tell it like it’s boy meets girl and the rest is history?/Or do you want it like a murder mystery?/I’m gonna tell it like a comeback story.” OK, so that’s pretty brilliant, and the scuzzy riffing groove is irresistible. By year’s end (the album really hit me in December, I recall vividly), the words and music were coming in an avalanche, Craig Finn’s words and Tad Kubler’s riffs catching me like left hooks out of nowhere. And what galvanized the whole thing was the pure rock and roll rage and swaggering street poetry of “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”: “Your little hoodrat friend has been calling me again/And I can’t stand all those things she sticks into her skin/Like sharpened ballpoint pens and steel guitar strings/She says it hurts but it’s worth it/Tiny little text etched into her neck/It says Jesus Lived and Died for All Your Sins/She’s got blue-black ink and it’s scratched into her lower back/Says Damn Right He’ll Rise Again!”

At that point I knew I loved this band like no band since The Replacements. And it was just the beginning.

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