Thursday, February 1, 2007

Snow Day! Or How I Get Off Track And Completely Trash The Hold Steady.

what i'm listening to right now: "The Room Got Heavy" by Yo La Tengo

Well, it snowed for a few hours, if that this morning. My bosses in their infinite wisdom closed the restaurant for the day. Really could have used the money, but I spent the day with my family out in the woods (North Raleigh). Made everyone fajitas, and listened to my brother play guitar. Lately, he's really been into The Black Keys, and he's gotten their sound down pretty good. We were listening to their ep from last year, Chulahoma, while I was fooling around on his computer. I didn't know he'd stopped playing when the song "My Mind Is Ramblin'" started, that was the best recording of a guitar I'd ever heard! It sounded like it was right there in the room, the fuzzy warm edges of an amp buzzing away next to your ear. It was fantastic!

And every time I've heard something that great lately, I've thought of all the money people have wasted on that Hold Steady album, Boys and Girls in America. Which might have the worst sound guitars since.... I really can't think of what sounds worse. The guitars sound like a cartoon version of what a guitar solo should sound like. Maybe like something that Jesse and The Rippers would have performed in their "Full House" hey day. heyday? One word or two? Anyway, if you don't remember, Uncle Jesse, the one-time Beach Boys drummer had a band that would do a sitcom writer's approximation of rock'n'roll. Not to say that The Hold Steady are crass extensions of a television series. Or that they would be. With what sound like roots in punk, they might have some semblance of indiethics. I'm not sure, I don't know enough about this band. I just know that most people who've had the chance to have their thoughts on music published last year frothed and panted at that album's feet. But, man, those guitars! I spent money on "Boys And Girls In America", and I'm very upset that I did. It sounds like if the guy from Red House Painters was a snotty punk who was backed by The E-Street band on it's worst day, and instead of the cheesy saxophone of Clarence, they've got this bullshit guitar squealling all over the place. Sure, singer Craig Finn could score points for having some smart lyrics. Yet, plenty of people have smart lyrics, I listen to smart lyrics all day long. Smart lyrics can only get you so far, melody and the music said lyrics are being recited over are key as well. Let's take for example David Bowie. Bowie's lyrics are awful. The only reason he's gotten away with this for decades on end is because he can sing, and he knows his way around a melody. Craig Finn writes good lyrics, but he speak/sings them with no attempt at a melody. Others I've talked to about this album have told me that it almost sound like an attempt at selling out. At reaching a mass Nickleback like audience with lowest common denominator music, tapping into what Springsteen did thirty years ago with songs about teenage nights. But what they don't realize is that the arrangments are too busy for the 96rock drivetime ear, and that he's sing/speaking! That worked for Lou Reed... once! If there's someone who can change my opinion on this out there, I completely welcome their attempt. As it stands, I'm just not buying it.

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