The Hold Steady â€“ Separation Sunday / 2005 Frenchkiss / 11 Tracks / http://www.theholdsteady.com / Reviewed 26 April 2005
The Hold Steady start off â€œSeparation Sundayâ€ with a very confusing style that really mixes a Tim Armstrong-style of vocal and ska-influenced guitar riffs with a Talking Heads-like structure. In what seems to be an ode to a more pissed off Conor Oberst, Hold Sundayâ€™s â€œâ€Cattle and the Creeping Thingâ€ uses the same dominant set of vocals, coupling them with a twinkling piano and a compelling backing beat. In a sense, lead vocalist Craig really bring the music into a Streets-like constructing, putting out eir vocals as the key determinant for the tempo of the track, instead of just allowing the instrumental arrangement assume that duty. The shuffling beat of â€œCattleâ€ jumps focus a number of times,and makes for an ersatz, yet always impressive and upbeat track. Continuing the same style of assault for â€œYour Little Hoodrat Thingâ€, Craig takes the place of Jello Biafra in the purveyor of slightly-snotty rock, even if Craigâ€™s vocals explore a depth of harmony that Jello has never (wanted) touched.
The allure of The Hold Steady is the ability that they can milk the cigarette-dragging, Denis Leary-esque vocals of Craig for the entirety of the disc, a feat that would result in a tepid and tedious album for any other band that attempted it. The arrangements, not the vocals are the main part of this disc that tends to age, and with just a slightly-sung, slightly-spoke vocals Craig is able to further the story of â€œSeparation Sundayâ€ further than any of eir compatriots on the instrumental side of things. The first cracks in the discâ€™s veneer begin to show during the atonal and chaotic â€œCharlemagne in Sweatpantsâ€. A half-cooked mess of seventies-influenced rock, neither the virtusosic guitars or the rambling vocals on this track can salvage this track.
â€œMultitude of Casualitiesâ€ is a resumption of the earlier form that really impresses most about The Hold Sunday; dreaming guitars mesh well with angsty vocals to make an ebb and flow of emotion. The rest of â€œSeparation Sundayâ€ is hit or miss, with the slower-tempo of â€œDonâ€™t Let Me Explodeâ€ only bearing fruits after a wall of sound is created by the synth/guitar mix. â€œChicago Seemed Tired Last Nightâ€ uses the â€œThat 70s Showâ€ theme guitar riff to create a differing sound in the later echelons of this disc, but by and large fails to elicit any gasps of awe. The Hold Steadyâ€™s disc is solid, with as many dips as soaring peaks.
Top Tracks: Cattle and the Creeping Things, Stevie Nix
Rating : 5.2/10