splendid > reviews > 3/13/2004
Hold Steady
Hold Steady
Almost Killed Me
French Kiss

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Zach's Ass"

Buy me now
A confession: Lifter Puller's Fiestas and Fiascos is my desert island record. Through a magical combination of sneering humor, adept musicianship and imaginative songwriting, the album moved beyond the hipster-flex of most post-rock albums into a world inhabited by derelicts, drug addicts and an anti-hero the likes of whom only previously existed in bad Urban Dramas -- Nightclub Dwight. The band dissolved at the height of its prowess (a rarity in this age of second- and third- generation emo resurrections), leaving behind enough material to be appreciated for years to come. Members of Lifter Puller reconnect in The Hold Steady, a band more fixated with guitar solos and drunken fist-pumping than in the more nuanced, desperate territory of their former incarnation.

"Positive Jam" opens the album with the promise of a less-is-more approach, little more than a guitar solo holding together Finn's narrative of the last eighty years in American history, all leading up to The Hold Steady's creation as a rock band against anything quotidian: sniffling indie-kids, eight-dollar-beer drinking scenesters, clustered-up clubbing kids. In other words, The Hold Steady are out to point a finger at the very audience that has made Finn's much-loved-in-death but ignored-in-life Lifter Puller a box on the Hipster Checklist.

"The Swish" presents Finn in Fiestas and Fiascos-form, deftly word-playing and name-checking: "She said my name's Rick Danko but people call me One Hour Photo / I got some hazardous chemicals so drive around to the window / she said my name's Robbie Robertson but people call me Robo / I blew red wine and blew right in a tissue / I came over the counter just to kiss you". Steve Perry, Elizabeth Shue, Nina Simone and others are dropped into the mix, showcasing Finn's singular talent for fusing the beauty of the ordinary with the outlandish, ever-present influence of popular culture.

Finn's lyrical prowess shows some dents in its armor, with the repetition of old standards ("tripping wet", "made love to the interstates") feeling less like a nod to the past and more like a crutch. The album hits a lull near the middle, where the songs do little to advance a new sound. However, Finn on a bad day is (to use a baseball metaphor, as Finn often did with Lftr Pllr) like Ferguson Jenkins, the Hall of Fame pitcher who would be a household name had he not pitched for some of the worst Cubs teams in history (and that's saying a lot) -- he gets the job done, often with style and grace, but usually with a disguised elegance. Almost Killed Me is not Finn's best work, but, like Jenkins, it's a pleasure to watch him work, even on a bad day.



Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber


The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz



The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau


Gary Noland

Tommy and The Terrors


Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770



Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano

Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!

Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!

That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo

Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.