Review: The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady
“Almost Killed Me”
(Frenchkiss Records)

The Hold Steady is a New York City quartet fronted by songwriter/vocalist Craig Finn from Minneapolis art-punk project Lifter Puller. Also from Lifter Puller is the guitarist Tad Kubler. The band’s music has a loose, wide-opened jam feel. While many indie bands are overtly post-punk, this group recalls more such power blues projects as Black Oak Arkansas and Cream, without any gratuitous leads. Overall, this makes the music simple and rugged, the sonic equivalent of a good work boot. What really makes it worthwhile is the lyrics chockfull of cultural references like decade stereotypes (“Positive Jam”), icons from Patti Smith to Nina Simone (“The Swish”) and the bar band scene (“Barfruit Blues”). Someone looking at indie rock through the lens of having lived through the ’80s once been in a bar band and still collecting records will smile at all the references in songs like “Most People are DJs”, “Baby take off your beret/because everyone’s a critic and most people are DJs.”
Tom “Tearaway” Schulte