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The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (Cover Artwork)

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady: Separation SundaySeparation Sunday (2005)
Frenchkiss Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: lol_omg_wtf_namblalol_omg_wtf_nambla
(others by this writer | submit your own)

So concept albums are the next big thing. What with Coheed and the Volta stirring things up with their epic (if sometimes completely incomprehensible) tales of fantasy and Green Day redefining Spin and Rolling Stones' definition of rock. Yep, it seems like tying the songs on your album together into.
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So concept albums are the next big thing. What with Coheed and the Volta stirring things up with their epic (if sometimes completely incomprehensible) tales of fantasy and Green Day redefining Spin and Rolling Stones' definition of rock. Yep, it seems like tying the songs on your album together into an overarching narrative is the thing to do these days. It's not a bad idea, really. It makes an album's work stand by itself, and can add a deeper level of meaning to a band's songs. Generally, I like concept albums, so this trend is pretty OK in my book.

One of my favorite recent concept albums was the Streets' A Grand Don't Come for Free. I really dug the straight-forward narrative style of the album that made for some great character development. That's something music doesn't often deliver, character development, and that's where the Hold Steady come in. I knew nothing of the Hold Steady (besides Nothing Nice to Say's shout-out to them a while back) prior to my picking up Separation Sunday on a whim a few days ago. I popped the disc into my car and received some very enjoyable, danceable, garage-punk rock. You have your driving 4/4 beats and your peppy guitar lines, and it all seems pretty run-of-the-mill at first. The main distinguishing factor of this band is the singer, and specifically, his delivery. He doesn't so much sing as rhythmically talk, with very musical inflection. I realize that makes little to no sense, but there aren't a whole lot of singers out there sounding like him. It's like he's telling you a story while the instruments give you Peter and the Wolf style emotional cues. It's a great medium for storytelling, and it begs you to listen closer to hear what they're getting at.

The story is delivered in the same deadpan directness as the Streets. There is imagery and metaphor and all that good stuff, but it doesn't obscure the flow of the story and makes it quite easy to follow. Some can call my fondness of this over, say, Frances the Mute, intellectual laziness, but I really enjoyed rocking out and hearing a good yarn get spun at the same time. The intelligence of the lyrics is impressive, and I had fun seeing if I could pick up on all the references they were making, and the points they were trying to make. Hell, they even dropped a Dillinger Four bomb:

Nelson Algren came to Paddy at a party at the dead end alley. He told him what to celebrate.
See? These guys are pretty cool. The other interesting lyrical tic is the use of Biblical and Catholic imagery. Say what you want about the Catholic Church, but you can't really beat the apocalypse and crucifixions for dramatic moments. They're not a Christian band, but you can tell they've opened a bible and seen what's inside, and that's definitely not a bad thing to do. It's always good when a band can demonstrate they're well read, and know about the shit they're dropping.

"So why the hell," I hear you asking, "do you keep mentioning the Streets? These two bands sound nothing alike?" Good question. I think this album has a lot in common with A Grand Don't Come for Free. Neither one is a precisely shocking example of skill in their respective genres, but the excellent storytelling mixed with the overall coolness of sound made it a fun listen. Separation Sunday will not redefine modern rock and roll music, but they bring it hard and put a whole lot of damn energy and thought into what they're putting across. I would recommend this to anyone who likes old-school rock music that you can dance to, and doesn't mind hearing a good story too.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in AmericaAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Clash - London CallingJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyJawbreaker - Dear YouThe Hold Steady - Stay PositiveThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundWeezer - Pinkerton

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
bradleymiracle (June 9, 2006)

this is a huge heaping pile of dog shit.

Anonymous (January 11, 2006)

i guess talking is the new singing these days...pssh

Anonymous (December 22, 2005)

Yup, people come on this site for "intellectual" arguments all right.... you make a good point though.

Anonymous (December 22, 2005)

Ugh you two with the 'douche' argument are completely unnecessary. There are these things out there called opinions, and evrybodys got one, and neither of you are even arguing yours intellectually. "You're the douche" "no, you are" "you called me one first!". Come on.

Anonymous (December 20, 2005)

Craig Finn is an ex hardcore kid!
He's damn good people!

Anonymous (December 19, 2005)

oh yeah, this album is pure genious

Anonymous (December 19, 2005)

Paddy would punch you in the face for dissing on his friends.

Anonymous (December 18, 2005)

I wasn't speaking for someone else, I was speaking for myself. Hence, "I If I were Paddy... I'd be pissed...". I'm sorry you don't like it or my original post, but seriously, get fucked.

REALPUNX4LIFE (December 18, 2005)

Uh, I called someone a douche because he thought he could speak for someone he'd never met, not because his taste in music is different from mine. Douche.

Anonymous (December 18, 2005)

"The New Power Generation is the best band from Minneapolis, hands down."

can't front on The Artist, that's for sure.

Anonymous (December 18, 2005)

FINALLY. Album of the Year. Hands Down. PERFECT.

LevitateMe (December 17, 2005)

This album is terrible. His voice is like Keith Morris only more annoying.

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

Didn't you start off by calling someone a douche? Get over yourself.

REALPUNX4LIFE (December 17, 2005)

I can't believe someone called me a douche for saying the Lifter Puller is better than Husker Du and the Replacements. Not only that, but he seems really offended by it. Whoa. Way to go, pal. "That guy didn't say that obvious answer that everyone already knows!"

For the record, Lifter Puller is my second favorite band of all time, so there's no way you'll get me to rescind that statement, no matter how vitriolically you cry.

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

The New Power Generation is the best band from Minneapolis, hands down.

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

i like the one before this better, but good band all around.

wyzo

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

"Minneapolis' finest band? That title belongs to the Replacements or Husker Du, not Lifter Puller. You, sir are the douche wtih an internet connection, and a fucking douche at that. Get filched, shit-heel."

Hm, I dunno... Maybe he meant "Minneapolis' finest band that didn't break up years ago?"

In any case, that honor would go to CODE 13!

-Will

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

Dramaflower: hit up IRC or Google. Look for high-res driver's license templates. Find a decent color printer and some glossy paper. Problem solved.

Anonymous (December 17, 2005)

Minneapolis' finest band? That title belongs to the Replacements or Husker Du, not Lifter Puller. You, sir are the douche wtih an internet connection, and a fucking douche at that. Get filched, shit-heel.

givemeamuseumandillfillit (December 17, 2005)

This is ridicously overhyped.

It's good and stuff but seriously, the hype machine is STILL going off the charts.

psychoos231 (December 17, 2005)

Yeah they are a tad overrated but the tunes are okay i guess

REALPUNX4LIFE (December 16, 2005)

Not to be a douche, but Paddy is in love with the Hold Steady boys. You might also notice the line "hard drugs are for bartenders, I think I might've mentioned that before." It's because on the first record he sang "B12 is for speeders, D4 is for lovers and hard drugs are for bartenders and the kitchen staff and the bartenders' friends." Finn and Kubler were in Minneapolis' finest band, Lifter Puller, who played millions of shows with D4. I think they can speak for Paddy more than you can. You're just a douche with internet connection.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

The most over-rated band and album of the year. I bought this album with such high hopes and critical praises still ringing in my ear, but alas, after putting into my cars CD player, I quickly discovered I should have bought something else. I don't care if the guy doesn't sing, but what is required at minimum, is talent. If I were Paddy (or anyone from the Dillinger 4) I'd be pissed that this band even mentioned my name.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

"danceable garage punk," eh? more like a straightforward bluesy bar band-type rock 'n' roll.

it's like if elvis costello's stateside long-lost twin brother never quite finished his twelve-step program and went on to perform john mellencamp covers. don't you tell me some parts of this album don't sound eerily like "little pink houses"....

it's still a great album, though.

Testiclese (December 16, 2005)

i just read a horse the band review
"But listening to "Birdo", it sounds as if they've tried to listen to too much Alexisonfire and then just do less screaming. Part screamo, part emo and part nu metal, the song doesn't really appease the listener. And then on top of all that is a cheesy synthesizer that tries to make you forget about what is going on. Messy, disconnected, and basically throwing everything against a sonic wall to see what sticks, "Birdo" is a huge no-no. "

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

i hate it when bands use a phrase following "the" in their name. Like "the stand by me". This is literary terrorism and I'm not gonna take it.

drawaflower (December 16, 2005)

This album definitely made my top 10 of 2005.
SO good.
What's frustrating is that they [the hold steady] don't play at 16 venues. Just 18 or 21 (ie. the mercury lounge and webster hall).

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

better late than never on the review. this is probably my favorite album of the year. i saw these guys open for the twilight singers when almost killed me came out and was an instant fan. i saw them again at that second to last get up kids show and there were a bunch of college frat types in the crowd that were booing the hold steady and chanting "kids kids kids"... i told them to shut the fuck up.

anyway, great album... awesome beat poetry inspired vocals mixed with bruce springsteen bar rock. plus it's a great story. even funny at times.

still not my favorite concept album though. that's a cross between black love by the afghan whigs and quadraphenia by the who.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

i interviewed the lead singer of the hold steady and he was one of the nicest guys, which was the polar opposite of the interview i did directly before it (dfa 1979). He deserves all the success he is recieving.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

i want a guitar wolf review

RobG (December 16, 2005)

definitely one of my favorites to come out this year as well. about a month ago i drove down to boston from central maine (about 4 hours each way) to see them and the constantines. yeah, it was worth the drive.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

dance garage punk??

good album though.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

Why not wait until 2006 to put the review for this up.

adam (December 16, 2005)

Amazing record. One of the year's best.

-adam

REALPUNX4LIFE (December 16, 2005)

Actually, you're both wrong. Two thousand aught five and two thousand and aught five both are 200005. You actually mean twenty aught five. Duh. Two thousand and five is also wrong.

Speaking of wrong, anyone who dislikes the Hold Steady.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

Sorry to be such a perfectionist but this statement: "This album blows a lot of things out of the water in the world of two thousand and aught five. Chris Finn has this knack, be it whatever band he is in, to dominate a lyrical flow without ever sounding mundane at any one point. Yeah, it's kitchy, but that sweet, tongue and cheek sort of way." has a few errors.

First, it's either two thousand and five or two thousand aught five, not both. Second of all his name is Craig. And last but not least, it's tongue in cheek, not tongue and cheek.

You are right about one thing, this is a great album.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

This album blows a lot of things out of the water in the world of two thousand and aught five. Chris Finn has this knack, be it whatever band he is in, to dominate a lyrical flow without ever sounding mundane at any one point. Yeah, it's kitchy, but that sweet, tongue and cheek sort of way.

Put this up with that Constantines record, Life and Times, and Milemarker and you've got yourself a definitive best of list.

I like this review too. I love when people go unknowingly into Chris Finn's world and, usually, you leave with a smile.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

The Hold Steady fucking rock. Craig Finn is one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. And 'Your Little Hoodrat Friend' is one of my favourite songs of the year.

But Lifter Puller were even better.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

'Neither one is a precisely shocking example of skill in their respective genres'

I disagree, I think the Streets are perfectly original, revolutionary and intelligent, with more talent in their little finger than most 'garage' acts have in their whole 'band'.

However, I prefered Original Pirate Material. good that you guys across the pond are digging Birmingham's finest though

jheisel (December 16, 2005)

this album is great, so is that streets album. hurrah.

andburntherest (December 16, 2005)

somebody review the remix/demo alk3 album soon, I want to watch everyone bitch, piss and moan.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

The first record was better, but this band is awesome live. Craig Finn is intense.

maverick (December 16, 2005)

This album rules. And there's gonna be a new Hold Steady album in 2006, too!

-Scott

Jesse (December 16, 2005)

Craig Finn was better at an art-rock than he is at bar rock.

SalsaShark (December 16, 2005)

That "D4 Bomb" idea was awesome. I should check these guys out.

Anonymous (December 16, 2005)

The singer is funny to watch onstage, looks like he has Parkinsons

the_other_scott (December 16, 2005)

i was so stoked to see these guys after every publication from spin to pitchfork slobbed on their knobs.

then they played in l.a. with the constantines, and dubya decided to come to town...long story short because of dubya shutting the streets down i missed the show

then i saw them wiht the souls a couple of weeks ago. man were they fucking boring.

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