Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hold Steady

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the Hold Steady. And when I say “lately”, I mean maybe the past year. I was first introduced to this band by Tom, who had a writing class with the mother of (I think) the bass player. He sent a link to their video for “The Swish”.

Later, Tom’s twin brother, and my best friend from college, Paul, sent me a mixCD he titled The Best of 2005. It took me a year to get into that CD, but when I did, I really got into “Cattle and the Creeping Things.” I remembered that I also liked “The Swish” and so, like 2 years later, I did some research on the band and discovered that they had several albums out and began to procure them.

Those of you who have been into this band in the beginning may ask why it took so long to delve deeper. I think mostly it was how singer Craig Finn more or less barked out the lyrics versus singing them. The lyrics are great, don’t get me wrong:

You in the corner with a good looking drifter
Two cups of coffee and ten packs of sugar
I heard Gideon saw you in
He said you were contagious

But I was wondering if those clever lyrics were maybe going to be too clever, because you can get sick of clever lyrics really quick. However, Hold Steady lyrics have just enough seediness in them that prevents them from ever getting clean enough to be annoying.

If you get into this band, you can start anywhere, but I think that getting into their albums in chronological order is best, since there are underlying themes. I just discovered the Hold Steady Wikia page, and while there might be another site with more information about the songs and the bands, this one looks like it could be a good start.

There are characters in the songs that recur, the two prominent ones being Charlemagne and Hallelujah (“Holly” for short). There are great references comparing rock music to religion, or religious services. It’s definitely not Christian rock, but I gotta give it to these guys for taking the “good” parts of Christianity and twisting them for their own rock and roll efforts. It’s about the only way Christianity is palatable to me.

They’re due to release their 5th album on May 4, titled Heaven is Whenever.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Elysian Fields - Minneapolis

When I lived in Decorah, Iowa in the mid-90s, there was a bar there, probably from 1993 to early 1995 called Orrsey's. I won't go into the details on where the name came from, but it was Dave Orr's bar. The bar opened up soonafter I moved to Decorah, and actually had live bands just about every weekend. Most of the bands were of the cover variety, but there were a few bands that played their own music.

One of the bands that I enjoyed was called Elysian Fields. I realize there was some other band that burst onto the scene around 1996 with the same name, but I assure you, the band I'm talking about was not that band. The one I'm referring to was from Minneapolis. They self-released a CD, and then I moved away in April 1996, so I never knew what happened to them.

This is the unfortunate problem with the internet. These days, any kid with the software can record songs and get a Myspace page. Myspace is very helpful in providing bands a quick start to allowing people to access information about the band AND their music. I would have killed for Myspace in the late 80s/early 90s.

What I have often found as I've travelled and moved around the country in my post-college years is that just because you think Band X is the shit in say, Ames, Iowa, or Decorah, Iowa, someone who lives in Florida may or may not feel the same way, since they didn't see the band in the bar in your condition. It's almost like a "I Guess You Had to Be There" situation. What you get in a live show, you don't necessarily get on the CD.

Elysian Fields used to play a lot of their originals, and in fact, I'm pretty sure they stuck to the ones that would later be on their CD. They also did some covers that I liked. They did "Sister Luck" by the Black Crowes, they did "Sucker" by Mott the Hoople, and while I was never a big fan of "End of the World As We Know It" by REM, they did that, and it was a crowd favorite.

I enjoyed their originals which ranged from an almost MC-5-like "DC-X", the straightforward rock of "Ether", the plodding "A Couple Weeks" and the Zeppelinesque "Sometimes Why".

These guys came back into my consciousness a few weeks ago when I was taking the garbage and compost out. Or maybe I was shovelling the driveway. I just remembered that on the live version of "A Couple of Weeks" they would get to the middle part and sing, "Forty years ago, drifting through the snow, I lost my way, could not go" and we would chant it back at them. Because, you know, it was fun. And we were drinking brown liquor. Whenever I'm out in blowing snow, I am reminded of those lyrics.

So, anyway, I went looking for them on the internet the other day (as I have several times over the past few years) and came up with nothing. So I was hoping that someone out there, maybe up in Minneapolis way, would know about them or some of the members and what they're up to these days if I put a footprint on the internet out there about them.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Them Smokestacks Reachin' Like the Arms of God

Well my daddy worked the furnaces
Kept 'em hotter than hell
I come home from 'Nam worked my way to scarfer
A job that'd suit the devil as well
Taconite, coke and limestone
Fed my children and made my pay
Them smokestacks reachin' like the arms of god
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

- "Youngstown" by Bruce Springsteen

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sing This With Me - This is "40"

It's funny. I enjoy the U2 EP, "Under a Blood Red Sky", but the final song on the album, "40", is not one I loaded into my iTunes.
But Bono's intro here has been in my head the past few days:

I am thankful for a lot of things. Thankful that I made it to 40. That I have a wonderful wife and two great kids. I'm glad I have a job, but I'm not sure I'm "thankful" for that. I still believe that you get what you put in, so in that regard, if I'm given the chore of shovelling shit because that's the job, then so be it.

I hope everyone has a good day.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Total Passover Gets Some Props!

In 2006, this guy contacted us about Total Passover and being Jewish. Here are the results (we're about halfway down). Other than Kurt's quote, I think it's hilarious that Andy, the only Jew in the band, doesn't get quoted.

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