The Hold Steady stays positive on new album and tour

Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:59pm EDT
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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Drawing packed houses and four-star reviews, buzz band The Hold Steady may have finally built the ecstatic rock and roll experience they've been singing about for years.

Over the course of four albums, the Brooklyn act with the boozy, classic sound has grown from critics' darlings to rock-festival favorites who have opened for the Rolling Stones.

Along the way, they've drawn an obsessive fan base that makes their own T-shirts and dissects lyrics in online forums.

"Sometimes I'm blown away by how close people are paying attention," singer Craig Finn said in an interview.

The Hold Steady's music rewards that kind of close attention.

Against a bombastic guitars-and-piano attack that recalls Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Finn weaves druggy coming-of-age tales in a bark that sounds like Lou Reed with a bad head cold.

Characters with biblical names like Gideon and Hallelujah stagger through nightclubs and pass out at parties, cropping up again from song to song and album to album. Pills, powders, saints and Midwestern streets are lovingly cataloged, and the transformative power of rock music is a recurring theme.

Finn says he has tried to create a unique world through his lyrics, drawing on a Minneapolis adolescence steeped in Catholicism and punk rock. In dozens of notebooks, he's sketched out a master narrative that reveals itself a little more in each song.   Continued...