Sunday, November 25, 2007

If You Hate The Hold Steady, Skip This

Someone please tell me why I should hate this band. Beside the fact that they do everything wrong: derivative licks, pretentious lyrics, frat-boy posturing.

I wish I hated this band. But I am not cool enough to hate this band. I love this band. I love the way they find that expansive big riff that carries the song. I love the way they shamelessly worship gesture rock. I love the way they sound like Social Distortion meets Molly Hatchett while The Fall mediates the peace talks.

I'd like to see them tour with the Drive-By Truckers, so folks could see side-by-side what a trying-to-sound-like-a-rock-band band sounds like next to a real rock band.

There's a deep sad irony in why Lucero and DBT aren't the shit yet The Hold Steady manages to garner significant press. Don't get me wrong: I love this band. Like, I play "Arms and Hearts" over and over again. I love 'em. But they have copped that hipster pose that allows them to ape authenticity without having the responsibility to back it up. DBT backs it up. And Lucero is simply too good for people to grasp until the band dies horribly or saves a baby from a well.

Leach the irony from a Hold Steady song, add pedal steel, better songwriting, and a Southern drawl and you have the Drive-By Truckers.

But DBT has been honing their craft in bars for 20 years, and The Hold Steady arose from the remains of Lifter Puller (an admittedly pretty good band), Tuesday.

DBT actually thinks that there's a vernacular rock and roll that matters to people. They still exist at the locus of rock, R&B, country, and blues. The Hold Steady sees that as a pose and tries to take something from the dead parts and build a zombie out of it.

Both approaches have merit. Guys go for looks, girls go for status. That's hard to argue with.


wallace said...

... didn't they play in b'ham at the bottletree cafe recently w / art brut ?

Bitter Old Punk said...

They did, and I missed them. That's what I get for never leaving the house.

Matthew said...

Stumbled across this post, I'm a huge fan of both DBT and The Hold Steady (Also, D. Boon was indeed a fucking hero), and I think you are missing the genuine aspect of the Hold Steady. The stories Craig are telling are not really ironic, they are humorous at times, but the are sincere meditations on teenage and 20-something life for a segment of the population. Also, his love for the setting of these stories, the Twin Cities, shows through at any life performance or through the songs. Both Craig and Hood, Cooley, and (Isbell) sing sincere, and often humorous, but never really ironic sons about the people in their backgrounds. I would say the Truckers songs might be more "personal" at times, but much like The Hold Steady, many songs, are stories about the people populating their youths and adulthoods, such as Puttin' People on the Moon, Aftermath USA, My Sweet Annete. Basically, I would argue that both bands are sincere in their work with a genuine love for the kind of music they play. To say the Hold Steady are trying o be a rock band denies the whole history of some of the band's members in the Twin Cities music scene during the 80s and 90s as fans and participants. Craig and company are up there as part of the legacy of bands as diverse as the Replacements, The Grifters, The Band, and Bruce and the E Street Band, and I think that as a band they have a genuine, nonironic, love for all these influences. But damn, this is all kind of arguing the fine points, cause from your post I can see we all agree that both bands do indeed rock.

Bitter Old Punk said...

I'll cop to that, Matthew. I don't have nearly as firm a grasp on the history of the Hold Steady as I do of DBT, and that observation wasn't fair to the band. Perhaps I was confusing the narrative distance in their songs for irony. But, yeah, we're pretty much in agreement -- both bands rock, and there's a dearth of genuine, smart, guitar-driven rock out there that can acknowledge the past without explicitly emulating it. Both the Hold Steady and DBT succeed.

Also, check out the Dexateens! They're from Tuscaloosa, they aren't great songwriters like the Hold Steady and DBT, but they rawk like hell.

Anonymous said...