Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Hold Steady "Boys & Girls in America" (2006)

Springsteen is normally the comparison that you hear regarding The Hold Steady.  I suppose it's all about young people yearning for more than what they've got.  Thematically, that does seem to be a connection between the two.  But the R&B that is such a presence in Springsteen's music is not a factor in that of The Hold Steady.

I think that the better comparison is to Bruce's counterpart, Patti Smith.  Both Finn & Smith have a penchant for chanting/speaking their vocals. They are both somewhat obsessed with the Beat Generation.  And there's an edge to their songs that doesn't seem to exist for Springsteen.  In Springsteen's world it feels that the worst thing that can happen is that the characters in his songs are stuck in that same town.  But with Smith (and also THS) there's a sense that death is really the fate of some of these characters.  There's a real sense of stakes in play, even if the people in their songs don't seem to be aware of it at all times.

While I never felt a great deal of affinity to the people populating Springsteen's New Jersey, I can relate to the people in The Hold Steady's songs.  Twenty-somethings who don't seem to have direction other than drinking, drugs, and (hopefully) a bit of sex to spice things up.  Terrible girlfriends.  I wonder how much I would have loved this band had they been around 20 years ago.

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