Posts Tagged ‘The Hold Steady’

The Hold Steady had three different focal points – guitarist Tad Kubler was a classic rock riff machine, emulating the bar band rock of Thin Lizzy. Vocalist Craig Finn was inspired by hip hop, weaving interlocking narratives of Catholic teenagers in sin and redemption in Minneapolis. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay added an extra layer to their sound, his piano and organ drawing comparisons to Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Between 2004 and 2006, the Hold Steady released three albums “Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday”, and “Boys and Girls in America”  that set a different standard for what indie rock could sound like. When their Brooklyn peers were mining postpunk and dance music, the Hold Steady channeled Springsteen, Thin Lizzy and ‘70s hard rock radio to back Finn’s bleeding heart missives about bad girlfriends and boring boyfriends, summer beers with your best friends, lovers who were bad news, kids getting high by the river and waking up in different cities. There was nothing like his voice, either; he sounded like someone nursing the world’s worst head cold while trying to talk through a mouthful of margarita mix. On top of kick-ass guitar riffs, he invented an entire universe in a ubiquitous speak-sing cadence with the persistence of a drunk stranger yelling a story at you.

The Hold Steady peaked with three great records in the 2000s; 2005’s Seperation Sunday featured their densest narratives, 2006’s Boys and Girls in America was their most accessible, while 2008’s Stay Positive was their most eclectic. Nicolay left the band before 2010’s Teeth Dreams, and without Nicolay, and as Finn moved from shouting to singing, they lost some of their identity and critics started comparing them disparagingly to Weezer and Counting Crows.

The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me

Originally together in Lifter Puller, vocalist Craig Finn and guitarist Tab Kubler were inspired to form The Hold Steady while watching The Band’s The Last Waltz. Kubler plays classic rock inspired riffs while Finn spits out dense lyrics inspired by hip hop, interweaving stories about sex, drugs, and Catholicism. Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but in light of what follows it feels like a rough draft – Finn’s narratives would become even more complex and the band’s sounds both became more complex.

Their 2004 debut album, Almost Killed Me, sounds like the E Street Band after they slipped into the gutter, Thin Lizzy if they got fat and American, and a hundred other bands from Southside Johnny to the early-’70s Kinks that liked to party, but did it with the occasional tear-filled eyes and desperate hearts. Like the best of these classic rock staples, the Hold Steady can flat out rock. Kubler can rip off a fret-searing solo with bullfighter style, which he does quite frequently, and the rhythm section has enough muscle power to stop a speeding locomotive. On top of this vintage rock chassis, the band drop Finn’s vocals and vision. Without him, the music is straightforward enough to appeal to the AOR masses and backstreet fanatics; with him they are far too weird and wild. His pop culture name-drops, knowing references to obscure musicians like Andre Cymone, real-sounding tales of the streets, and flights of knuckle-busting anger are far out in left field, and his bracing, eye-bulging delivery of said lyrics pushes it even further over the top. It’s a high-wire balancing act of sorts, and it would be easy for the band to topple over into boring mainstream rock cliches or veer into embarrassing drunken poetry territory but it never happens, not even once. The group plays with intense energy at all times, propping Finn up and giving his words the dramatic backdrop they deserve. Finn holds up his end of the bargain by being hilarious and oddly touching as he rambles, coughs, and shouts his way through what sounds like a lifetime of journal entries, inside jokes, and record store soliloquies.

Franz Nicolay only guests on a few tracks here, but his keyboards would beef up their sound on future releases. The strongest tracks include ‘Knuckles’, with its repetitive lyrical formula (eg. “I’ve been trying to get people to call me Freddie Mercury/But people keep calling me Drop Dead Fred”, and ‘Certain Songs’, which still feels like a prototype for later piano based Hold Steady tracks.

Almost Killed Me is a strong debut, but at the same time it’s like a rough sketch for The Hold Steady’s future releases.

The Hold Steady Separation Sunday

Separation Sunday notches up everything from the excellent start of Almost Killed Me; The Hold Steady’s arrangements are more muscular and detailed, with Franz Nicolay as a full-time member on keyboards, while Craig Finn’s lyrics tell fragments of inter-weaved narratives. Thematically dense, Separation Sunday revolves around four characters: the narrator Craig, the pimp Charlemagne, the skinhead Gideon, and Holly/Hallelujah, who veers between faith, addiction, and prostitution.

While a lot of the appeal of Separation Sunday comes from Craig Finn’s intertwining stories, there’s plenty of musical punch here too.  Separation Sunday though. It is a much darker record, revolving around drug casualties, broken lives, a hoodrat fixation, spiritual and physical dissipation, and general despair, and there aren’t as many easy laughs this time out — but instead the listener gets lots of head-shaking wonderment at Craig Finn’s genius lyrics and voice. His gruff, in-your-ear vocals negotiate the twisting torrent of words like a world-class skater kid. He is insanely literate and insanely insistent: he is strangely brilliant. He is also just about the best rock & roll frontman Whipping up a classic rock-inspired frenzy of monitor-straddling guitar riffs, dual harmony leads, E Street piano flourishes, and galloping horns, the band behind Finn sounds like nothing less than Jim Steinman’s dream group. You could talk about great individual songs (the epic “How a Resurrection Really Feels,” the piledriving album opener “Hornets! Hornets!,” the weird and almost funky “Charlemagne in Sweatpants”), but the strength of the album is in the flow from song to song and the way the intensity level (which starts off at a near fever pitch) elevates until your head is just about ready to burst from the thrill of it all. Call it a quaint idea in 2005, but Separation Sunday is truly an album, one that sounds almost perfect when played from beginning to end in the proper running order. Block out about 42 minutes sometime, hold steady, and get ready for indie rock — no, rock & roll — at its sweatiest, most intense, and most impressive.

The most immediate track here is perhaps ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’, with its rhythmic guitar fills and powerful organ backdrops. As Finn is largely talk singing, Kubler is free to play almost anything, and the riff that fuels ‘Stevie Nix’ is both brutal and intricate. The record climaxes with the double punch of the short mournful ‘Crucifixion Cruise’ and the celebratory ‘How A Resurrection Really Feels’, which bounces along with an optimistic horn line.

Separation Sunday is fascinating; all the literary and classic rock allusions make it fodder for aging music critics, but it’s accessible all the same, although you might want to start with the more conventional next record.

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America

Boys And Girls In America is more accessible than its predecessors, with Craig Finn employing vocal melodies on many of the tracks, while the band’s approach is less brutal and is reminiscent of the E-Street band in their prime. Some of Separation Sunday’s characters make return appearances (“Charlemagne pulls street corner scams/Gideon’s got a pipe made from a Pringles can/Holly’s insatiable/She still looks incredible”), while Finn’s still endlessly quotable (“We started recreational/It ended up all medical/It came on hot and soft and then/It tightened up its tentacles”).

One of the ballads here, “First Night,” begins with a piano and an acoustic guitar lilting a rather loose melody that gives Craig Finn the support he needs to get out of his pent-up, novelistic, wordsmithing mouth. All of these characters are young, desperate, and fleeing from their inner fear, except for Holly who is wise enough to tell the protagonist that “words alone never could save us”….and then “cried when she told us about Jesus.” The piano fills out that unfillable hole in Holly and the rest, no matter where they run. Finn can do nothing but repeat his lines and find a last verse somewhere to let the song just fade into silence, because it never really ends. Boys and Girls in America is a sophisticated shambles. There’s still a barely-on-the-rail feel, despite the literate compositions. Finn’s always either behind or ahead of the beat, but it’s alright, his bandmates can more than handle that because they’re as engaged as he is. There are a few guests, and even a horn section on one track, and the classic girl group chorus call and response . There’s real sadness in the Wall of Sound and chanted chorus in “You Can Make Him Like You,” which examines everything from addiction to betrayal, to the insecurity in love that can push someone over the edge, never to return. Thin Lizzy makes a return on “Massive Nights,” complete with roiling bass as Finn opens the whole escapist mix, swinging and setting up a hedonist’s dream: “The guys were feeling good about their liquor run…” There are low expectations and drama where only the music counts. The tune turns back on itself when the singer is trying to convince himself and the huge, wailing, responsorial chorus, that something so utterly suburban could be cool, until “She had the gun in her mouth/She was shooting up at her dreams/When the chaperone said that/We’d been crowned/the king and the queen.” And it just ends. The reason this record is worth embracing, and even celebrating, is because it’s an honest to God rock & roll album. It exposes in the first and third person what it means to grow up right now in the midst of suburban waste. It’s angsty, but Finn’s got a sense of humor, and the band can play their asses off. That they so readily embrace rock history as a means of unfolding Finn’s stories suggests that “cool” and “indie” are simply terms in the larger dialogue. This is a smoking little record.

Boys And Girls In America is one of the most instantly visceral rock records of its decade; ‘First Night’ is a pretty piano ballad for most of its duration, until it switches gears into a torrent of guitars and some of Finn’s most incisive lyrics. ‘Southtown Girls’ builds from a single a capella vocal into another tour de force, while ‘Citrus’ never raises its pulse above a simple acoustic lament (“Lost in fog and love and faithless fear/I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere). Meanwhile, the trio of rockers that open the record are all incredible, with Nicolay fluidly filling the gaps between Kubler’s propulsive riffs.

In some ways Separation Sunday is the more interesting, unique album, but when Boys And Girls In America hits full flight, it’s amazingly compelling.

The Hold Steady Stay Positive

Stay Positive is a worthy sequel to Boys and Girls in America. Lyrically it has Craig Finn’s usual themes, but it’s less dense than before, and it also feels like a love letter to rock music; they’re referencing The Clash and Hüsker Dü in the opening ‘Constructive Summer’, while Led Zeppelin are referenced on ‘Joke About Jamaica’.

Musically, The Hold Steady are exploring similar territory to Boys and Girls in America – again there’s a big piano ballad at track 5, this time with an epic guitar solo (‘Lord I’m Discouraged’), and again there’s a great song at the end with the propulsive ‘Slapped Actress’. The weaker tracks are the most sonically adventurous – ‘One For The Cutters’ rides Franz Nicolay’s harpsichord, while ‘Navy Sheets’ is built around a synth riff, but neither is particularly interesting beyond the lyrics. The bonus track ‘Two Handed Handshake’ is also noteworthy.

The Hold Steady have lost even more of their edge on Stay Positive, but the material here is mostly great.

After that virtuosic run of albums, the Hold Steady released the very good Stay Positive in 2008, capitalizing on their newfound status as the most righteous band in indie rock. (I mean, look at that title.) What happened next was, by the band’s account, a little trying. A European tour was canceled on the eve of setting out because of Kubler’s bout with pancreatitis. After putting out four albums in five years, the band found themselves pushing harder to complete out the next. “It was rushed,” Kubler says of the 2010 release, Heaven is Whenever. “Not everybody was on the same page, and I don’t think there was a lot of communication. Longtime keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose contributions were crucial to the sweeping melodrama of Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America, left during the making of Heaven is Whenever,

Four years passed between that record and Teeth Dreams—longer than it took for the first three albums to come out. In between, Finn recorded a solo album and the band added a new guitarist, Steve Selvidge, which allowed Finn to drop the pretense of being a guitar player. (During the show, he will play without one—usually, one would just dangle untouched around his neck like a dead limb.) Selvidge joined during the Heaven is Whenevertour, and helped write the music for Teeth Dreams. You can hear his influence in the guitar interplay, which is the most nuanced of the band’s career.

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Nicolay rejoined The Hold Steady in 2016. Thrashing Thru the Passion is their first album since his return, and it’s been hailed as a return to form. It clocks in at a brief thirty six minutes, and it feels less conceptually ambitious than their early records, a collection of songs rather than a grand statement. The second half of the album will be already familiar to fans, already released as advance singles.

Craig Finn had this to say, It’s our 7th LP, Thrashing Thru The Passion, is out . It’s our first album with the six piece lineup of The Hold Steady, and our first in five years! We are very proud of it. Lots of people deserve thanks for major contributions to the project.

Producer Josh Kaufman helped us a ton and made the sessions super fun. Annie Nero gave us some amazing vocals. Horns were expertly provided by Stuart Bogie, Jordan McLean, Dave Nelson and Michael Leonhart.

One of our oldest friends Dave Gardner mastered the record. Nick Hollomon created the fantastic art for this and all the preceding singles. Frenchkiss Records was kind enough to put it out into the world. We raise a glass to all of these folks. We will continue celebrating this release two more nights in Seattle, and then on to Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. Thanks for listening, Thanks for understanding. Stay Positive!

Despite the lack of thematic weight, Thrashing Thru the Passion is fast-moving and fun. Finn’s still playing with words, throwing in rapid-fire cultural references like this couplet from opener ‘Denver Haircut’. Elsewhere the band sound great, whether they’re crunching rock and roll like ‘Confusion in the Marketplace’ and ‘Star 18’, or drifting closer to Van Morrison territory than you might expect with Nicolay’s classy piano and horns of ‘Blackout Sam’.

It doesn’t feel as significant as their earlier masterpieces, but Thrashing Thru The Passion is a tight, fun record that captures more of The Hold Steady’s past glories than you might expect.

thanks Aphoristic Album 

The Hold Steady have finally announced their long-awaited new album “Thrashing Thru The Passion”, which will be released on August 16th via Frenchkiss Records.

New York City based, The Hold Steady is fronted by singer/lyricist Craig Finn. The first single “Denver Haircut” immediately hits that ever-so-familiar The Hold Steady sound that has made us fall in love with them in the first place. Being their first new album in five years, this is the first album the current incarnation of the band that features both guitarist Steve Selvidge with returning keyboardist Franz Nicolay. The keys paired with that extra layer of guitar makes all the difference and the band sounds like they never ever left but also totally reinvigorated.

“Denver Haircut” is the first song taken from the upcoming album Thrashing Thru The Passion out on Frenchkiss Records,

 

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Craig Finn is the front man of The Hold Steady, however he also an incredible singer-songwriter in his own right. His new solo album is called “I Need A New War”. It is Craig’s third solo record on Partisan Records (his fourth overall) and it cements him as one of today’s most vital storytellers, among the ranks of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits.

I Need A New War feels like another confident step forward from Craig. He tells the stories of people on the margins, focusing on characters who are lost and who have been left behind. There is nothing glamorous about their stories, it is a very “daytime” portrait of these characters. These are also the least American-specific songs that Craig has ever written.

Finn tells us “I Need A New War” is out today. I’m super proud of this record and I owe a ton of gratitude to a bunch of people who got it here. Josh Kaufman is beyond a producer on this music, he’s a co-collaborator and a spiritual guide. He’s become hugely important to me in the past five years. Life changing, actually. Joe Russo brought his spectacular musical sense to another record with me. His percussion playing and input brought so much life to this music. D. James Goodwin engineered, mixed and hosted at The Isokon and made it all sound incredible.

Stuart Bogie added so much emotion with his soulful sax playing and Raymond Mason & Dave Nelson rounded out the amazing horn section. Annie Nero & Cassandra Jenkins sound so fantastic singing together and their backup vocals are a major defining part of this record. Sam Kassirer played the piano that classes up the whole thing. Dave Gardner mastered elegantly. Dan Monick took the rad cover photo again and Vance Wellenstein put the artwork together. Partisan Records allowed all of this to happen.

I love each and every one of these people. Thank you all for being a part of it and thank you to everyone who listens.

Craig Finn & The We All Want The Same Things Band performing “Carmen Isn’t Coming In Today” live at the Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. “Carmen Isn’t Coming In Today” A track from Craig Finn’s new album ‘I Need A New War’ out April 26th on Partisan Records

The We All Want The Same Things Band features Stuart Bogie, Cassandra Jenkins, Sam Kassirer, Josh Kaufman, Raymond Mason, Annie Nero, Joe Russo, and Jon Shaw

We’ve really enjoyed Constructive Summer the past few months especially the shows where we play Stay Positive from front to back. It’s been thrilling to play songs we haven’t tackled a lot in the past 10 years and we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have. Now we’re excited to announce in celebration of 10 years of Stay Positive, a reissue of the album on vinyl that’s been put together with our friends at Vagrant Records. Here’s the rundown on the 10 Year Anniversary Deluxe Edition:

—3LP Triple Gatefold w/Die Cut Jacket
—Cut at 45RPM
—Original Album Plus 8 B-sides
—Remastered by Dave Gardner
—Limited Edition Colored Vinyl

The official street date is December 7th. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to order the album on limited edition colored vinyl directly, with the option to purchase a vintage reissue Stay Positive t-shirt and poster.

There are still a limited amount of tickets available for the first two shows of Massive Nights III at Brooklyn Bowl November 28 & 29. As with previous Massive Nights shows at Brooklyn Bowl, we’ll have surprise openers each night and the Wednesday, November 28th show will be a Stay Positive celebration, with the album being performed in full. Thanks for listening, thanks for understanding and….Stay Positive!
The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady crush New York City from this West 4th Street rooftop, busting out the hits from their album Stay Positive. And yup, if you’re wondering, the gong actually does get used.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive [Reissue/2880] 3xLP (Vagrant)
10th anniversary reissue on 3xLP triple gatefold with die cut jacket. Cut at 45rpm for audiophiles. Includes original album, rarities, plus three never before released tracks.

Recorded live at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 26th, 2018.

We’ve had a blast throughout 2018 doing these long weekends of shows – our first shows in London since 2014, Constructive Summer in Philly/NJ, San Francisco and Toronto; extended Constructive Summer with some beer fests in Chicago and Minneapolis; and, of course, finishing up last weekend at Brooklyn Bowl in New York for Massive Nights III.

Whether you realize it or not, we’re recording these shows so we can share the memories with you. This is the first set of live recordings to celebrate — the first night in Philadelphia at Union Transfer.

Philly in July was a true highlight. It’s always been a fun place to play for us, and Union Transfer is really an incredible club. We remember a great atmosphere in the club that night, and we met a bunch of cool people before and after the shows. Enjoy reliving it!

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This will be available pay-as-you want for only a limited time. We’ll have some more surprises in the coming weeks and months and if you choose to download these recordings, the money will go towards continuing to record and release as many of the live events as possible and any additional funds will go to the K+L Guardian Foundation.

Thanks for listening, thanks for understanding and Stay Positive! Happy Holidays and see you in 2019!

The Hold Steady

Devinyl Splits No. 7 features Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers on Side A and Kevin Devine on Side B. The split was released in March 2018, with digital downloads being delivered to your inbox before the release date. The splits are in hand already and will ship on time.

Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers contribute “Galveston” a song in which the weaving, story-telling songwriting that has defined Finn’s career to date is on full display. Finn plays in the band The Hold Steady and released his most recent solo album, We All Want The Same Things, also in March 2017.

Kevin Devine contributes “Kuala Lumpur,” his first new song since the release of October 2016’s wonderful album Instigator. Devine also released an acoustic reimagining of Instigator, titled We Are Who We’ve Always Been, in October 2017.

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Hey Everyone!
We’ve always loved playing in the UK, and we are extremely excited for the shows coming up in London on March 9/10/11. These will be such a blast.  To celebrate in advance, we thought we’d drop two more new Hold Steady songs directly to the fans. Check them out:
1. Eureka
2. Esther
These songs were recorded in Brooklyn in November at the same sessions as “Entitlement Crew” and “A Snake In The Shower”.  We are excited to share them with you.These will be available for the fans here on Bandcamp for this week, and next week we will make them available via the major digital music providers.
If you choose to download these two songs, a donation will be made to benefit the K+L Guardian Foundation. ALL monies received from downloads will be transferred to the K+L Guardian Foundation.

The K+L Guardian Foundation was formed to benefit “Jersey” Mike Van Jura’s children after he suddenly passed away in November 2012 at only 36 years of age.

Released March 5th, 2018  The Hold Steady  “Eureka” b/w “Esther”

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The Hold Steady are: Bobby Drake, Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka, Steve Selvidge 
Additional performers: Stuart Bogie, Michael Leonhart, Annie Nero

Craig Finn We all want the same things album art

There’s a danger that pushing everything through the Trumpian prism collapses some of the intricacies and nuances of art. After all, The Donald is a product of the disaffection Craig Finn is exploring here, not the cause. The problem is deeper and more complex than any government-related trouble, and Finn is too wise to offer much in the way of an answer. Instead, he suggests we shift the focus of our questions. Because We All Want the Same Things is an album about relationships, but not in the usual sense. Not the transcendental, star-aligned love of Billboard hits and Hollywood flicks but coupling based on common needs. Not life-changing answers but life-preserving strategies. Luckily, in the hands of Craig Finn, this version of ‘romance’ feels somehow more fulfilling, the opposite of cynical, for better or for worse, genuinely human. Perhaps the revolution in the conclusion isn’t some violent revolt or epiphanic break, rather a gradual yet constant commitment to challenging our own expectations. To stop wanting too much for ourselves and to start being sympathetic to others. A comeback story, of sorts.”

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'Almost Killed Me'

Even on their first album, these Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis dudes had it all: drugs, sex, Catholic guilt, trashy bar-band guitars. Craig Finn splutters his crazed one-liners about killer parties gone bad, from “Mary got a bloody nose from sniffing margarita mix” to “I did a couple favors for these guys who looked like Tusken Raiders.” “Certain Songs” pays tribute to a bar where the jukebox has the perfect ratio of Meat Loaf to Billy Joel. Commercial? Not exactly. Yet the Hold Steady sounded so real and raw, so loaded with wit and compassion and energy, this made them a word-of-mouth sensation.

To celebrate the release of deluxe remastered editions of ALMOST KILLED ME and SEPARATION SUNDAY, all of the members of The Hold Steady share their memories from recording the band’s first two albums, with added insight from others involved in making the first two records in this podcast series.
Part One features a conversation between Craig Finn & Tad Kubler, founders and lead songwriters.
Come back this Friday for part two with Galen Polivka – and remember, both albums are available Now on LP/CD/Digital! Order at http://www.theholdsteady.net#

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The long-awaited release of the deluxe editions of our first two LPs are available on Frenchkiss Records! The Deluxe Edition LPs mark the first time both albums have been available on vinyl in more than a decade.

ALMOST KILLED ME: DELUXE EDITION comes joined with five rare tracks, including the very first Hold Steady 7” single, “Milkcrate Mosh,” and songs previously only available on the album’s original Australian CD release. It’s on blue vinyl.

SEPARATION SUNDAY: DELUXE EDITION features six additional tracks, including the never before available “212-Margarita” and “The Most Important Thing” along with previously unreleased demos of “Cattle and the Creeping Things,” “Charlemagne in Sweatpants,” and “Crucifixion Cruise.” It’s on white vinyl.

All extras are available on the Deluxe Edition CD releases and via vinyl download cards.

If you haven’t yet, go to http://www.theholdsteady.net to order physical copies!

“Almost Killed Me” and “Separation Sunday” Deluxe Editions now available on LP/Digital from Frenchkiss Records!