The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America
Charlie Southwell 23/01/2007
The Hold Steady have a difficulty getting themselves out of being pigeon holed and labels that place them close to the sound of Bruce Springsteen and Thin Lizzy (without any inspirational guitar work). Although I'm pretty sure, Phil Lynott would turn in his grave to be compared to singer, Craig Finn. The bands songs, although lyrically well written the vocal lines monotonously fall with a thud, far short of the genius that Finn has potential to be.
Clearly a band that enjoys its time spent in bars and the obvious anecdotal stories. But there is no need for another “concept” album, where the concept is beer, drugs and bitches. It's the rock and roll cliché wrapped in dull lead lining, restraining itself from ever becoming great. The album works well from the outset, with its three strongest songs first followed with weaker ballads, and similar sounding but less powerful songs.
Opening track, “Stuck Between Stations” could roar into life, as a classic up-tempo rock song, that could be played on rock stations for years. However the pseudo singing, is more like conversational lyricisms and destroys any sense of becoming a tune that whole households will remember for years. Great piano backing, intertwined with adequate guitar licks make it slightly more palatable. But this is the problem I have with this album, the opening 20 seconds of each rocky song have you reaching for your dusty air guitar, and then by the time the lyrics have spurted out, you wish you'd not wasted your time getting out your chair and stayed where you were. I mean you can never remember where you left that air guitar anyway. This band is no AC/DC, yet I wish they were that bit more “stomp rock”.
“Chips Ahoy!” with the exclamation mark, has the most catchy, “pop” section of the album, with a fantastic phonetic vocal melody something like this: wo-ah-oh-ee-ah-oh-ee-oh. But other than that it's still not hugely inspiring.
More positively “Hot Soft Light” is a personal highlight of the album. A walk towards the rockier underpass on the album, that is strongly reminiscent of an early Thin Lizzy. A slightly different song, on what is an otherwise quite hormonal album. It feels very much in the vein of a teenage band having written about the general college parties they experienced, with a clued up lyricist.
The whole rest of the album drably, carries on in a rather similar way but at a lower tempo and less exciting, this band are best to be enjoyed at their faster more rocky experience. The only song after the opening three that makes any impression on me, is “Massive Nights” with its nice opening bass riff, I almost had to head to e-bay to check out the prices of air basses. But I thought better of it, as I turned on my computer he started to sing. And the chorus hit in, with another whoah-oh-oooohhh and it seems to me that it's really not that different at all from the opening three tracks. Which seems to make a parody of themselves, halfway through the same album. But I'm not sure they understand irony, which would make this album kind of pointless. What more can we expect of Americans these day?
I close this review looking back hopefully at the start of the album. This chorus from the opening song pretty much sums up this album for me. I could have stopped at about 2 minutes, and saved myself a fair bit of time, and disappointment.
“She said “You're pretty good with words
But words won't save your life.”
And they didn't.
So he died.”