The Hold Steady
Welcome to another new column here at FTTW. Courtney comes to us by way of her blog, midvale school. She's going to write about music, sweet music every week.
My sophomore year in high school, I went from Bruce Springsteen to punk rock in the span of six months. Prior to that, I had been a slave to MTV and my parents’ record collection. However, when you think about the copious amounts of Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and other 60s and 70s staples that lived there, I think I was turning out ok. True, I had dabbled in a little Ozzy Ozborne in elementary school and junior high, flirted with the hair metal, and still fostered a particular obsessive love for Def Leppard, but those are stories for another day. Up until high school, Bruce Springsteen was the musical god in my suburban universe. I abandoned the Boss for trendier, more biting bands in spectacular fashion and spent the next 15 years looking for music that made me as hungry as I was my sophomore year. And for 15 years, it worked beautifully. New gods.
Then, suddenly, it didn’t work at all. Every new band I heard bored me to tears. I could trace their lineage only as far back as Nirvana, and I wanted to throw things at the radio. Where had all the good music gone? (Before that last sentence incites armed revolution, I am NOT knocking Nirvana. I AM, however, knocking all those trendy little bands who only saw that far back, and didn’t see the deeper roots.) Still searching, I came across a podcast created by the 15 year old daughter of a music writer, and the Hold Steady. From the moment I heard the opening lyric of “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”, I was hooked. A new band I could throw myself at. A new band to obsessively love and buy all their albums and read every article I could find. My 70s FM and MTV alternative and blue-collar balladeer hot buttons had all been pushed.
If Bruce had grown up listening to the Clash and the Ramones, THIS is the band he would have fronted. The Hold Steady closed the loop for me. You’ve got ringing power chords, a little bit of organ, a rambling half-spoken poem about a girl who’s less than perfect but makes you want her anyway. I started walking around, asking people, “have you heard this band?” or, alternately, “what do you mean you don’t like the Hold Steady?” They’re the guys I met at all those club shows I went to in college—as a matter of fact, I WENT TO COLLEGE with Craig Finn. These guys listened to all the same bands I did and worshipped at the same musical altars. Seriously, the first time I heard that organ kick in between the verses, I almost wet myself. Punk rock songs built on three chords and a screech are fine, but sometimes, you need something more sweeping and grand, and this band gives you that, and still manages to keep that certain special sneer we all identify with. Sometimes, the love song involves both the beautiful and the profane. Sometimes, there are drugs and booze and tattoos and those things are OK.
So after all that, and after listening to the song, tell me again why you don’t like the Hold Steady?
You can listen to a sample of Hold Steady here.