Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me (2004)

"All the sniffling indie kids: hold steady. All the clustered up clever kids: hold steady."
- Positive Jam, The Hold Steady

Yes, finally! I have said many times that The Hold Steady is the best band in America. I know that's a difficult statement to endorse, but I genuinely believe it is the truth. Others may disagree. I know that some people are not enamoured with Craig Finn's vocals, but, to me, they add an interesting dimension to his poetic and vivid lyrics. Sometimes, it's as though he is half-shouting, half-singing, but I think it works. And, just what is he singing about? Wikipedia's summary is spot on.
Noted for their "lyrically dense storytelling," and classic rock / bar music influences, the band's narrative-based songs frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters based within the city of Minneapolis. [source]
The two most interesting recurring characters are Holly and Charlemagne, but let's not forget Gideon.

I did not know anything about this band when this record came out, and now prices for the original LP are quite high. There are two copies for sale now on Discogs at $268 and $400 Canadian. There is no way I would ever pay that much for any record.

Thankfully, the album was just re-released on vinyl and I snapped up a copy. The only downside is that it is on blue vinyl. I prefer black vinyl, but this will do. The good news is that the digital download came with several bonus tracks, which were originally only available on the Australian CD. Those tracks are:

Milkcrate Mosh
Hot Fries
Curves & Nerves
Modesto Is Not That Sweet
You Gotta Dance

This is an excellent debut record, with a bunch of fabulous tunes. If I had to rank my favourite Hold Steady records, this would be second or third on the list. The band has so many awesome records, it makes ranking difficult. Allmusic refers to this record as the band's "hands-down masterpiece." That's flowing praise, but Separation Sunday is a better record. That's the band's masterpiece.

I learned a lot from this record. For example, I had never heard of Feminax or Ybor City before.

"Hold steady Ybor City. you're up to your neck in sweat and wet confetti"
- Most People Are DJs, The Hold Steady

This, and later THS records, also increased my knowledge of Minnesota geography.

One of the curious things about Craig's lyrics is the use of place names and the names of people, some of whom I had never heard of. For example, these name are mentioned on this LP: Patty Smythe, Beverly Sills, Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Elizabeth Shue, Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Nina Simone, Andre Cymone, Billy Joel, Meatloaf, Rocco Siffredi, Phil Lynott, Ellen Foley, Freddy Knuckles, Right Said Fred, Freddy Mercury, Drop Dead Fred, Johnny Rotten, Freddy Fresh, Mickey Mantle, Porky Pig, Alice Cooper, Solomon, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son (some of the people are fictitious), James King, King James, and Jada Pinkett. If you include the bonus tracks, we also get Phil Spector, Judas, Jack Kerouac, and Elliot Smith. 

I cannot pick a favourite track because they are all favourites. This is as killer record.

"it's hard to hold steady when half your friends are dead already."
- Knuckles, The Hold Steady

Turn it up!

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