out of egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and i shake the dirt from my sandals as i run

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top 10 Albums of 06: #2

The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

People throw around "guilty pleasure" like it's a fuckin aerobie. Kids, watching Friends is not a guilty pleasure. Eating a milano cookie is not a guilty pleasure. Fuck, listening to Britney Spears is not a guilty pleasure. These things are not transgressions. If they don't fill you with guilt, then they're straight up pleasures. Okay? Now masturbation, there's a guilty pleasure.

The key to the good g.p. is dissonance - the conflict over the thing that goes on while you're actually doing the thing. Listening to bad music doesn't pass the test because it's not doing any harm to anyone, least of all yourself. Bad music is either a pleasure or it's not. Good music on the other hand, good music is a violent act. Listen to good music and your friends will think you're a fuckhead. Talk about it to someone who's already heard it and they'll laugh at you. Good music gets between people. It destroys relationships. Guilty pleasure.

The Hold Steady's strength is in their adhesion to formula. They know what they're about, so do their listeners, and so do all the critics in the world. Try finding a review of this record that doesn't contain the words "boozy" or "riffs." Formal innovation this ain't; the Hold Steady is unabashedly the sum of its parts.

BUT - this is Good Music, so we're told, and so I'm supposed to know what those parts are. But I don't. And I feel guilty about this. Bruce who? There was a dude talking to me after the Hold Steady show I saw last month, and for some reason he kept bringing up Love Is All, and I was drunk but I just remember thinking Thank God, a band I can pretend to know about! As long as I don't have to talk about old music!

If you search for the Hold Steady on youtube, you'll eventually find a video where I do a crazy man dance while my roommate tries to mount a shelf in the background, something I promised I would help him with. I'm a jerk in real life, but when I'm listening to music I really like, I'm a huge fucking douchebag. I feel bad about that, a little.

Because the dissonance is built in. The Hold Steady deliberately appeals to people who are older than the subjects of their songs by 5-10 years. At their show I felt like I was simultaneously too old and too young. A girl in a black dress punched me in the face; I was pissed at her, but then I felt guilty about being so uptight, and besides, they were playing this song.

Download: Stuck Between Stations

buy it.


Anonymous YES ALL OF IT said...

Could you send me the rest of the Hold Steady?

1/08/2007 10:06 PM


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