Review: The Hold Steady

by bushman

Since it’s would make no sense to write about Lifter Puller, the band that was supposed to be on the first cover of Modern Fix over three years ago, but wasn’t, cause they broke up a couple months prior to our creation, I’ll sing the praises of Craig Finn’s new band, The Hold Steady, because it sounds just like Lifter Puller. Mostly, because Finn sings and plays rhythm guitar (same position he held in the afore mentioned, short lived darlings of Minneapolis). If you were familiar with Craig Finn’s vocal stylings, you’d know they are distinctive and can be recognized a mile away. Evidence in point, this CD was in a stack of about 30 when it got pulled out. I didn’t recognize the name and couldn’t even remember why I had this in the pile to begin with. Then about 20 seconds into the first track, in comes Finn’s exaggerated story-line speak/sing and it took about .03 seconds to go, “Oh, this is the singer from Lifter Puller’s new band.” Which again, sounds pretty much like Lifter Puller. A little more rocking here, a little less distracted indie there, but the difference is negligible. The Hold Steady delivers the creative, indie rock supreme. Dropping self-involved stories of self-abuse done in the most chic of ways on top of carving bass lines and cleanly distorted indie rock guitars. All the while, Finn weaves his lyrics like a top-notch beat poet, deftly switching from straight to the point narrative to quick nods of heady insights spoken with a bizarre intensity that only he can deliver. It’s all in the tone and tempo of delivery that gives Finn such a distinctive ability to narrate. Witness the lone vocal break in “Knuckles” that goes, “I’m trying to get people to call me Sunny D, because I got the good stuff that kids go for. But people keep calling me five-alive…” then it all comes crashing back into the song. What might look pedestrian on paper becomes instantly charming when filtered through Craig Finn. The catalyst for this band came when Finn took a much-needed break from Minneapolis and indie rock in general around 2000 so he relocated to New York. He did some music with a project called The Brokerdealer, but had an itch to get into something more rocking. After throwing together some friends to pull off some AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Zeppelin covers for a one-off gig as music between skits at a comedy show, Finn decided to re-direct the efforts as a real band dubbing it The Hold Steady. If you missed the boat on Lifter Puller, consider this your once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into a new band, that sounds just like his most worthy previous band. Like I said, my plan was to put them on the first cover of Modern Fix. Yeah, I thought/think they are that good. We’ll see if The Hold Steady, can ah, hold steady long enough (ok, that sucked) to produce some consistent music and bring it to the masses live. You can find a promising start with “Almost Killed Me” on Frenchkiss Records.