Monday, October 30th, 2006
Some tips for anyone planning to dress up for Hallowe’en as Craig Finn of The Hold Steady – get a bowling shirt, a pair of glasses with thick, black plastic frames, drink as much as you sweat and lead your band through a seriously ass-kicking show at the Horseshoe this past Saturday night.
It’s a bit tough to come up with fresh things to say about The Hold Steady’s show since I used up all my good material when they played Lee’s barely three months ago. In the interim, they’ve released one of the year’s best and most acclaimed records in Boys And Girls In America and have also converted me into a huge fan. This time, they brought the same boundless energy that they had at Lee’s but when compressed into a club a helluva lot smaller, it became positively explosive. Though I don’t think it was sold out, it was hellaciously packed and the audience was as psyched as I’ve ever seen a Toronto audience – it was a veritable party pit up front. The band in turn fed off that enthusiasm and gave back to us in the form of pure rock awesomeness.
Also making a huge difference was being intimately familiar with their whole catalog this time around and being able to get right into the song from the first note. Of course, seeing them in three times in three months also meant that I was intimately familiar with some of their banter as well – Finn once again pulled out the Saint Barbara monologue before “Don’t Let Me Explode” but that’s okay, it was still great. Hell, everything was great. Though with the new album they’ve aspired to greater things and proved at at Lollapalooza that they can own a huge stage as well as a small one, there’s no denying that the band at their most potent in a crowded, sweaty bar. I don’t expect they’ll be playing anywhere that small again anytime soon, so dang that’s one to remember. If you’re anywhere near the remaining tour dates, do yourself a favour and get a ticket now. And Torontonians who missed them this time around or need another hit, note that they’ll be in Buffalo on December 13 – and what’s better than Buffalo in December? Nothing.
Along for the ride this time was fellow native Minnesotans Sean Na Na, who mine a similarly classic rock vein but from a more pop (think Cheap Trick) direction. It was alright but I preferred their between song banter which was an entertaining sort of deadpan, ironic arrogance. Considering that frontman Sean Tillmann’s other project as Har Mar Superstar involves him breakdancing in his underwear, I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of musical merit but was pleasantly surprised.
But seriously, if you’re going to dress up as anyone in the Hold Steady tomorrow, it’s got to be Franz Nicolay – all you need is the moustache, the rest takes care of itself.
Billboard talks to the band about the somewhat unexpected but totally deserved chart success of Boys And Girls while Tad Kubler fesses up to The Ottawa Sun about their uncool influences. MTV talks to them about Kerouac, The Detroit News about being a teenager, The Boston Herald about The Boss, Tiny Mix Tapes about fandom and Harp about signing autographs.
eMusic has an exclusive Boys And Girls bonus track available and the band’s interview/session with Minnesota Public Radio is now online to stream.
Photos: The Hold Steady, Sean Na Na @ The Horseshoe – October 28, 2006
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy!”
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations” (live on MPR)
MP3: Sean Na Na – “Double Date”
MP3: Sean Na Na – “Grew Into My Body”
Video: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy!” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Hold Steady
MySpace: Sean Na Na
Harp discusses the joys of scoring films with Paul Westerberg while Richard Buckner tells them how much of an influence The Replacements had on him.
Pitchfork discusses The Crane Wife with The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy (another Replacements acolyte, if you need to continue the meme). NPR will also be streaming their show in Washington tonight at 9:30PM ET. Only three days left in the Decemberists contest!
np – DeVotchKa / How It Ends
Saturday, August 19th, 2006
It’s a shame The Mendoza Line released Full Of Light And Full Of Fire so late in 2005 because had it made it out earlier, like before critics around the country had battened down the hatches and closed the book on the record release year, it may well have made its share of best-of lists. Filled with sharp songwriting, barbed, sardonic wit, pointed political commentary and pop hooks with a sweet Southern tang (the band originally hails from Georgia though they now call Brooklyn home), in a just world it would have gotten the attention it deserved and I wouldn’t have to resort to all these silly “hook” adjectives.
Full Of Light was the first album written after co-founder Peter Hoffman’s departure from the band following the release of Fortune and while Hoffman’s contributions to the band were undeniably superb, the album does benefit from the greater focus of having just the two primary songwriters. The record has a delicious swagger and confidence that wasn’t always evident in the earlier records – Shannon McCardle’s honeyed twang has never sounded better and Tim Bracy’s nasal delivery sounds less like a poor Dylan impersonation and more like his own voice. It’s really a superb record that deserves to be revisited if you overlooked it the first time around. And if you’re in the UK, you’re in luck – it’s being released there in September so you can make up for the colonies’ mistakes and put it on your best of 2006 lists.
McCardle and Bracy also have a second band in Slow Dazzle that in their own words, is an “urbanization of their previous band’s pastoral tendencies”. While there’s definitely less down-home, front-porch grinning and picking on their only release so far, The View From The Floor, and more programmed beats and loops, the distinctiveness of the couple’s voices – both singing and writing – makes it sound very much like another Mendoza Line record, which, for the record, is a good thing. And they know it, happily performing Slow Dazzle material in Mendoza Line live shows.
I caught them live at SxSW after having to bail on their Toronto show last December, but have to admit was a bit disappointed in their performance. It was their fourth or fifth performance of the festival, though, so they were allowed to be a little lethargic. This live set available for download at Southern Shelter from last month sounds better, though. While the band is now off the road, they’re working on new material for an EP release either this Fall or next Winter. There’s a sample from each of their last three albums below, with more MP3s to be had here.
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “Catch A Collapsing Star”
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “Let’s Not Talk About It”
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “What Ever Happened To You?”
MP3: Slow Dazzle – “Fleur De Lis”
MySpace: The Mendoza Line
MySpace: Slow Dazzle
The Stranger gets to know The Mountain Goats. Get Lonely! is out Tuesday and there’s another MP3 available courtesy of AmpCamp.
MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Wild Sage”
The Riverfront Times talks to Caithlin De Marrais of Rainer Maria. Via Largehearted Boy.
Neil Young on The Colbert Report.
Nina Persson of The Cardigans explains to Pitchfork why the band’s North American tour was cancelled and why it’s taken a year for Super Extra Gravity to find a domestic release in the US. It comes out there September 19 courtesy of Nettwerk, no bonuses for the latecomers to the party, and they may make up the cancelled tour next Summer. Here’s hoping. And The Times offers a top-ten list why The Cardigans are awesome.
Shows – The Killers are at the Kool Haus on October 20 and White Whale will be at Sneaky Dee’s on October 31.
Pitchfork has got the first MP3 from the new Hold Steady album, Boys And Girls In America, out October 3. They’re at the Horseshoe on October 28 with Sean Na Na.
np – The National / Alligator