Long live rock, I need it every night

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Hold Steady are Unamerican, and Must Be Destroyed

I heartily dislike the Hold Steady. Right from the first moment I heard them. I’ve decided to post the reasons why I don’t like them. And if you like them, we’ll agree to disagree. This is America, everybody doesn’t have to like the same things.


Jimbromski’s Reasons to Dislike the Hold Steady

1) Gritty “Heartland” Style Lyrics: I once read a parody of a Bruce Springsteen song. I can’t remember exactly how it went, but it was something like this:

Well I lost my job at the refinery, Mister

And Janie was pregnant and on disability

The government check was all we had

I gunned my ’69 Pontiac

Down the double yellow line blacktop...

And so on and so forth. I like the Boss but hearing for the umpteenth time that the factory closed (the type of factory changes with each song—steel, auto, chemical, semiconductor, widget, etc.) and of the great feeling you get feeling the wind in your hair Mister from driving your motorcycle down State Route 19 with Janie and her hands around your waist Mister...

Whew. I got possessed by the Boss there.

As I was saying, I like the Boss. I also can roll with some John Cougar at times. Tom Petty as well. But when you listen to guys like this, you can’t help feeling that you’re listening to a Chevy trucks commercial, or a Miller Lite ad, or a Dockers campaign, if Dockers broke out and got all edgy on us. This is American masculinity at its most mundane.

2) This is not how I remember my youth: One of the reasons I don’t like the Hold Steady is that their cultural memory doesn’t match up with mine, except in a bad way. To quote the great man, it says nothing to me about my life. Ordinarily, this isn't a big problem. You don't have to be a lonely vicar watching the youth of your English town move away to Australia in order to like the Kinks. I'm not some fag leatherboy, but I like Judas Priest. It's called empathy, and I got it, jack. But still, the Hold Steady really get on my tits.

Listening to the Hold Steady doesn’t remind me of high school. It doesn’t remind me of my 20s, when I was trying to find myself and mature. It doesn’t remind of growing up in my depressed Rust Belt town, surrounded by alcoholic Irish friends and relatives.

Listening to the Hold Steady does, however, remind me of, let’s say, Baltimore, which is full of broke-assed, no-account white people. Listening to the Hold Steady does remind me of dorks with soul patches, stupid porkpie hats, and slight weight problems. Remember when you were young, and you’d go over to the dude’s house that you didn’t know very well, and the place smelled like a combination of dog piss, cabbage, cigarettes and body odor? They’re a band full of guys like that. Here's some potential Hold Steady fans:

Speaking of porkpie hats and soul patches, are the Hold Steady just the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in disguise?

3) Craig Finn’s voice: A corollary to (1) is that, when your lyrics are so soulful, so meaningful, so...real, man...you have to sing in this raspy growl. This singing voice signifies that you are “singing from the heart.” The gravel voice affectation is again common to heartland/Rust Belt types. Paul Westerberg, Springsteen (again), Mellencamp (again), Bob Seger, Bob Mould, Dave Pirner and countless others do this. All these bands hail from parts of the country that peaked in say, 1952, and have steadily turned into deserted shitholes ever since. Hence, they attempt to sound like the grandfathers, who all died of lung cancer. Imagine Vince Lombardi singing in a band—this is how he would sound.

4) Endorsed by NPR: Let’s play a game. You name a band, and I’ll tell you if NPR would like them or not. Go ahead, it’s fun. Black Sabbath? No. Arrested Development? Yep—“This hip hop band is subverting the macho image of rap, with their latest single, ‘Mr. Wendell’...” NWA? Nope. Tracy Chapman? “It wasn’t easy being a black lesbian trying to get ahead in the male-dominated world of...” Art Brut? Please. The Hold Steady? Absolutely—“with his heartfelt lyrics describing a string of failed relationships, boozy nights with old friends, and a love of rock and roll...” The shit writes itself. Add to that, the soft voice of some wuss eco-friendly NPR journalist doing the story, and you’ve got A BAND THAT USUALLY BLOWS. Time magazine is also good for this—if your band is profiled in Time as “a band that’s capturing the hearts of disaffected twentysomethings everywhere,” then you should immediately break up and find a job in accounting, because more likely than not your songs will end up being played in Pottery Barn while 30something dweebs like my wife and I shop for a new ottoman. Not cool. And please bear in mind that I have no idea whether the Hold Steady have been profiled on NPR, or in Time. That would involve research, which is a drag. But really, if it hasn’t happened yet, it will.


Okay, fire away. I know for a fact that Jumbo Slice likes the Hold Steady, but he would, as he’s from Brockport, New York. I’d like to hear from the rest of you on this subject—I fear this band is slowly turning into the American U2 and if we don’t take steps to stop them now, we’ll be seeing these jokers everywhere for the rest of our lives—Super Bowl halftime shows, beer and car commercials, tribute albums, pay-per-view specials, etc. Take a stand now on behalf of your children and grandchildren.


Potsy said...

"On 'My Little Brother,' Art Brut offers the promise of reckless abandon and rock redemption that every garage band should long to re-create." - NPR (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5423262)
It's an attitude like yours that finds our military engaged in an illegitimate war in Iraq. Fact-check.

Jimbromski said...

fucking geek you are

Potsy said...

Aww. I liked your tirade otherwise. Except for the fact that I have no idea who Hold Steady is/are...

Jimbromski said...

See, now you're just jerking my chain.

Jumbo Slice said...

I love their first album, enjoyed their second, and think they put on a good live show. It's a series of '80s band cliches, but they make it owrk, for the most part.

However, the recent praise being heaped on their new album is pissing me off. Listening to it made me angry. I hate it so bad. They decided to ape the E street band in all the worst ways and play up the whole, "Hey, look at us! We're a fucking bar band!". Who cares?! It's the most overhyped albums if the year.

That being said, go back and listen to their first album, Almost Killed Me. It rocks.