The Hold Steady
By DJ Hostettler
Once upon a time back in the 1980s, there was a genre called “alternative.” It’s hard to believe these days, but back in the day, labeling a band “alternative” actually meant it was an alternative to what you’d hear on your local corporate top-40 radio station. Siouxsie and the Banshees didn’t sound like Pat Benatar, and that was a beautiful thing. Then when “alternative” became meaningless in the 90s, “indie rock” sprung up to remind us that no, Sebadoh doesn’t sound like Pearl Jam either.
Boys and Girls in America is the perfect title for The Hold Steady’s third full-length. The no-frills hard rock herein evokes images of Midwestern blue-collar Night Moves-style Americana, while Craig Finn’s trademark love-‘em-or-hate-‘em spoken-sung vocals spin yarns about modern boys and girls going to “all ages hardcore matinee shows” (the crazy catchy “Massive Nights” ) and apparently taking lots and lots of drugs (just about every song on the album), giving the retro soundtrack distinctly modern subject matter.
The constant theme of teenagers in love taking loads of drugs is worn thin by the end of the record – “Chillout Tent’s” dueling he-said/she-said boy/girl choruses are pretty annoying, to be blunt – but overall, Boys and Girls in America is solid, rockin’ and has a few potential classics (I dare you to not hum along with the “woah-woahs” in “Chips Ahoy” ) without sounding as stale as the classic rock it references. VS