Hippo Manchester
September 15, 2005


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CD Reviews
by Amy Diaz

The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday

French Kiss Records, 2005


Give Shawn Mullins a bottle of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes and put him in front of the E Street Band and you’ve got some sense of what you’re getting with The Hold Steady.

Craig Finn’s strained vocals yell the lyrics more than sing them. And, like a Bruce Springsteen shaped more by too much partying than economic tough times, Finn tells stories about hard, fast living over music that might very nearly be called classic rock. Sex with the wrong people, partying in the wrong town, attachments to the uncommitted — the songs are full of what might best be described as “tough breaks.” Songs like “Cattle and the Creeping Things,” “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” and “Stevie Nix” are full of sweaty, second-set energy. “Charlemagne in September” is one of the album’s most Springsteeny — filled with screw-you attitude and a sense of non-angry irony the Boss is a little too serious to exhibit.

Casually sexy in a way only few bands (Louis XIV, most recently) manage to be and seriously rocking, The Hold Steady are the house band at the world’s coolest dive bar.