Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
You Can Make Him Like You
<caveat> – It’s late, I’m a little addled from Pop Montreal and the travel, this is not an especially coherent post. </caveat>
The Hold Steady’s latest Boys And Girls In America hit stores last week and with it has come a tsunami of critical acclaim. This in and of itself is no great surprise, as the first two albums also reviewed very well.
On first listen, it’s unmistakably a Hold Steady record – the FM radio riffs and Craig Finn’s relentless monologuing couldn’t come from anyone else – but there’s been some definite adjustments since Separation Sunday. The production is a little less ragged and Finn’s voice, while still an acquired taste, is higher in the mix and more sing-y than shout-y. But the greatest change I note, and probably most tellingly of the band’s ambitions, is Franz Nicolay’s piano. It’s everywhere, dancing on top of the Marshall stacked guitars below, and instantly elevates the music from bar band to the most classic of rock. Cynics might find the faint aroma of fromage, but while Finn’s wordplay has plenty of wit and humour, it’s not ironic. Anyone who’s seen the band in concert (sidebar – Horseshoe, October 28, must remember to get a ticket) knows the band means it, every word, every note. Even Nicolay’s moustache. ESPECIALLY Nicolay’s moustache.
I’m only a latecomer to the Hold Steady party but am already lightly addicted to immersing myself in Finn’s world of glorious burnouts, outcasts and castaways and the suburban teenage wastelands they inhabit. I mean, I don’t think I’d especially want to live there, but listening to his tremendously detailed, sympathetic and affectionate character studies, I do find myself wishing my own friends were just a little more interesting… and I want to play air guitar. Like it’s predecessors, expect Boys And Girls In America to show up on more than a few year-end lists. It’s interesting that one of the criticisms I hear about the record is how straight rock’n’roll it is. When did that become a bad thing? There’s a Finn quote in the new issue of Magnet that says, “Someone said, ‘you guys and the Drive-By Truckers are the only bands that smile onstage'”. If bands want to draw from classic rock and can turn out great records while doing it, why the hell not?
The Village Voice features the band and examines the obvious Springsteen reference. And did you notice that there’s two bonus tracks to Boys And Girls In America available in the iTunes store? So whatever you spent on the album, get ready to spent another couple bucks. Also check it out – there’s actually content at BoysAndGirlsInAmerica.com. Not a lot, but more than the one video there the last time I looked.
Note that Pitchfork and Billboard have gotten onto the Wrens reissue news that I first reported last week – sure, they went out and got facts and quotes and other such fluff, but don’t forget who was asking “WTF?” and had no substantive information first. That’s right. Me.
Some new album news – Billboard learns from Lou Barlow that the original Dinosaur Jr lineup will release a new album sometime in the Spring and a live DVD from the reunion tour on May 8 of next year. Look for Idlewild’s Make Another World in Feburary (via Gigwise) and coming in March should be new albums from The National and Ted Leo (Pitchfork gets an update). On a slightly vaguer timetable is album #4 from The New Pornographers’, which Carl Newman tells Chart will be their Life’s Rich Pageant.
Tangentially, Marathonpacks, who has written up an exhaustive review of the REM DVD compilation When The Light Is Mine: Best of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 Video Collection complete with video links.
My Brightest Diamond will be at the Drake on November 9 with Pedestrian as support. A Sufjan Stevens collaborator on tour with a band that fit in fine at this year’s Edgefest – what a strange, strange bill.
Zoilus has posted the complete transcript of his interview with Joanna Newsom, an abridged version of which appeared in last week’s Globe & Mail. And today’s Globe has a recap of Pop Montreal from Carl.