The band I've been listening to more than any this year is The Hold Steady, a Minneapolis band who've been touring their latest album, Boys and Girls in America, all summer. I have to admit I'd heard nothing of them until this year, when they started getting a bit of press on the back of the new album and their allegedly excellent live act. They were playing the John Peel tent at Glastonbury this year, so I thought I'd check them out. The fact they were playing in a tent, under cover, out of the rain and mud, was also a factor in my decision.
Anyway, they completely blew me away. I have to say they're not the prettiest bunch, or the youngest, and the combination of singer Craig Finn's somewhat geeky looks and keyboard player Franz Nicolay's Daliesque moustache, waistcoat and cloth cap doesn't really work on paper, but in the flesh it all just comes together perfectly. At Glastonbury, their performance glowed - gallons of enthusiasm and sheer joy at being there performing. Finn's engagement with the audience was total and the songs' subject matter - one variation or another on 'getting high' - fit perfectly with the (albeit slightly damp) festival vibe. Also saw them a month or so later at the Academy in Liverpool, where they were equally entertaining, although constant gigging in the previous month or two has perhaps taken a bit of the edge away from the enthusiasm. Or perhaps Glastonbury was just perfect.
So thought I'd best invest in a few CDs. The third and latest album, 'Boys and Girls in America', has been getting the bulk of my attention and rightly so, eleven slices of indie pop perfection centred around the joys and perils of getting high in the Twin Cities area, coupled with a few Kerouac references for good measure. Add some Springsteenesque (actually 'EStreetBandesque') keyboards and one or two 'Woah-oh-oh-oh' singalongs and you have the perfect blend. Highly recommended.
The band's other two CDs haven't had as much attention thus far, although the second ('Separation Sunday') currently edges it over the Nicolay-less first, 'Almost Killed Me'. I have also downloaded a couple of albums from Finn's previous band, Lifter Puller - will report back when they've had a bit more airtime.
Lord, to be 33 forever.....