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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Hold Steady
Almost Killed Me
Frenchkiss Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


October 1, 2004
When Lifter Puller disbanded, the whole of Indie Kingdom was overcast with the grayest skies. The king, nameless but hoodie clad, took off his tarnished crown in silence for a moment, acknowledging a truly dark day. When they reunited for a few shows, birds chirped longingly through skies of patchy rainbows, and when a double disc set was labeled "posthumous", it did not know to rain or shine.

Then, an announcement came: Lifter Puller is dead, long live The Hold Steady! A perpetual beauty overcame the kingdom, and on the day of their debut, a celebration of parades and confetti took hold of the national consciousness. It has been beautiful ever since.

The Hold Steady retains everything so enchanting about Lifter Puller, and then some - the cast of colorful characters, the literate pop cultural turns-of-phrase, the astute modernity and eye for detail - moving its skewered indie leanings to a platform of loud, guitar-laden classic rock. The smooth and raucous licks go down easy, and mesh well with their party tale demeanor. If Lifter Puller was a furiously satisfying intellectual debate, The Hold Steady is the liberated graduation party.

Favorite tracks change on each listen, and stay true to the narrative, engulfing structures well established in their previous work. In one example, "The Swish" introduces a swarm of folks by their cheeky monikers. Directly recalling LFTR's "Cruised and Accused of Cruising," where a woman called Juanita explains that she's called LL Cool J, "Cause you can't call it a comeback if you never even been away/and [she] ain't never been no place," the track familiarizes us with One-Hour Photo, Robo, Circuit City, Nina Simone, and Andre Cymone, all with apt reasoning.

On what is almost assuredly my favorite track from Almost Killed Me, "Barfruit Blues," one gets the feel of a graceless yet warm return to the scene, where a haggard and over-made waitress chats up a frontman with, "It's good to see you're back in a bar band, baby," to which he replies, "It's great to see you're still in the bars." The sense of familiarity of these two lines alone makes for a heartening interplay for fans, that we can all pick up where we left off and run from there.

"Knuckles" is a war anthem about how hard is to carry on when so many have fallen, and yet it doesn't give up, spiraling head on into battle, with no guarantee you're any different from those white crosses off the path. Its military-style drumming and disheartened howling is chillingly appropriate in the current political climate, but makes it more personal, and infinitely more haunting. Many of the points promoted in the serious moments of the album are directly linked to the wartime atmosphere, and in that regard, Craig Finn is most like Bruce Springsteen. He creates songs with doubtlessly likeable exteriors, but with touchingly personal character sketches and world-weary astuteness beneath the surface. That said, Reagan could misinterpret these, too, and probably would.

At the other end of the spectrum, "Most People are DJs" is a hard rocking, loose and crunchy number best performed soaked in beer. It's a tale of ease despite cynicism, captured youth despite age, and the fun of fun if you keep up with it. As the last line proclaims, "I still feel pretty sweet," I can grin wildly in agreement. Things still look good from here.

The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me is a masterwork, calling attention to one centralized, very important matter: the profound hides most significantly in the mundane. Whether looking to a jukebox, noting "certain songs, they get etched into our souls," or the disappointed snicker of friends who know you went upstairs with a loser but wouldn't admit it, the life that happens every day among dirty minds and tired all-nighters gets leaked between the refrains. You'll want to be invited to the party, you'll find yourself among the not-so-anonymous crowds, and who knows, you might even get a nickname.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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