Artist: The Hold Steady
Album: Boys and Girls in America
Comments: The grunge revolution of the 90s killed rock and roll.
That’s right, I just typed that last sentence, and what’s more, I’ll type it again for emphasis.
The grunge revolution of the 90s killed rock and roll.
Oh sure, it also saved it. I mean, yes, it did turn back the tide of overproduced, under talented stadium glam trash that was flooding out of the late 80s rock scene, and it did galvanize and inspire an entire generation of angry, unpopular people with no outlet for their rage and social strife. It forever shut the door on Winger, Faster Pussycat, Poison, and said goodnight to that rock and roll era for good.
But it also killed off a lot of things that were good about Rock and Roll. It killed the big, swirling chorus and the sound of 20,000 people all singing the same words at the same time. It put a dagger in the heart of the guitar solo, an art now lost somewhere in the underbelly of modern hard rock. And it put to rest the drunken debauchery of a rock show. It made rock and roll serious, not fun.
And that is why the Hold Steady have no right releasing this album, this “Boys and Girls in America”, in this year of 2006.
What right do they have? Where do they get the stones? Didn’t anyone tell them that his style of bar room rock died in 1992? This album belongs on an 8 track tape, and it should be blasting out of some guy’s mustang on the way to the Springsteen concert.
I’m very glad that the Hold Steady decided to disregard 1992. I’m glad because this is the absolute best ROCK AND ROLL album I’ve heard in years.
When I say it’s a rock and roll record, I mean that in the classic sense. I mean that it has Springsteen keyboard harmonies that bring a smile to your face, drum rolls and kicks that keep your fists pumps, guitar riffs that will have you swaying back and forth and solos that will be sure to inspire an entire generation of new air guitarists. And it’s fun!
And the lyrics, oh the lyrics! It wouldn’t be enough if the band rocked, because then all they would be is a Springsteen cover band who can’t get past 1984. But thankfully, vocalist Craig Finn is not so much a singer as he is a public speaker, and not so much a songwriter as he is a story teller. He weaves poetry together and tells of drinking, love, drugs, and all the perils, pain, tragedy, and triumph of the boys and girls in America. He “loves this girl but can’t tell when she’s having a good time” because “how am I supposed to know that you’re high if you won’t let me touch you”. He tells of kids getting a little bit to high, then “kicking it in the chill-out tent”. He knows that “south town girls won’t blow you away, but you’ll know that they’ll stay.” Craig Finn is able to highlight the good in a world of bad; he is able to pull the pears from all of the mud.
So many bands today use the genre of “Rock and Roll” to describe themselves, but never have the courage to actually rock without irony. Today, rocking out is seen as something to be done with your tongue planted in your cheek and a joke at the ready. But here is a band that is doing just that.
I will not call The Hold Steady the saviors of rock and roll.
But listening to this album, I am almost ready to.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Key Tracks: “Stuck Between Stations” “First Night” “You Can Make Him Like You” “Chillout Tent”
Worth The Money: Yes