wars going down in the middle west
Are people still following along? Yes, tomorrow is the final day of The Big Ticket's Mix '04 (I've got to come up with a more clever title next time), just in time to burn that disc & slip it into the holiday stocking of your choosing. I've got my buddy Marc hard at work on some slip cover artwork, so it won't look quite so amateurish (as if I had created it). But anyway...
Another somewhat overlooked album this year was from Lifter Puller frontman Craig Finn's new Brooklyn-based band The Hold Steady. I picked up their debut cd Almost Killed Me when JRDN & I caught the second of their two nite stand at the Triple Rock back in March, from which I have a sweet Aesthetic Apparatus poster (shown below). Finn rolled through Mpls again in August, playing First Avenue's 25th anniversary show, but I was off seeing A.C. Newman the same nite, so I missed him. Normally, the Hold Steady would almost certainly get my repeat business.
JRDN is a long-time LFTR PLLR fan, so he's far more schooled in the oddball lyrical genius of Craig Finn than I am. It took me a little while to warm up to Finn's nasal voice and Mark E. Smith-like delivery, but I've definitely come around over the last year. I recall hearing "Knuckles" for the first time at the Triple Rock show & being suprised at how so much of the audience was singing along, as the Almost Killed Me had only come out a couple days beforehand. The diehards must have studied hard before the show. Of course, "Knuckles" is packed with typical Finn-isms ("people keep calling me [so-and-so]..." etc) that his fans treasure so enthusiastically.
Living here in Mpls, especially in this post-November 2 America, Finn's words about how "there's a war going down in the middle western states" seem eerily prophetic & now wholly appropriate. The culture warriors have been out in full force to reclaim "American values" for nearly two months now, and the over-hyped red vs blue conflict has become conventional wisdom. The midwest may be the battlefield on which we fight for this country's soul, and we progressives (you know, interested in "progress") can't sit it out. Despite all the Right Said Fred & Johnny Rotten references, this song can be heard as a sort of call-to-arms for the "heartland" in these unnerving, Dubya-second-term times. Craig Finn knows what's up.
Triple Rock poster by Mary Tyler Stout, Craig Finn @ North Six in Brooklyn 1/31/04
MP3 The Hold Steady - "The Swish"
Not convinced that these guys rock? Here's another track to push you into buying Almost Killed Me, courtesy the Hold Steady's official website.
Track 01: The Arcade Fire - "Wake Up"
Track 02: Frou Frou - "Let Go"
Track 03: The Walkmen - "The Rat"
Track 04: Interpol - "C'mere"
Track 05: Franz Ferdinand - "Jacqueline"
Track 06: The Killers - "Somebody Told Me"
Track 07: Junior Boys - "Bellona"
Track 08: Kings of Convenience - "I'd Rather Dance With You"
Track 09: The Go! Team - "Bottle Rocket"
Track 10: Belle & Sebastian - "Your Cover's Blown"
Track 11: TV on the Radio - "The Wrong Way"
Track 12: Metric - "Succexy"
Track 13: The Fiery Furnaces - "Tropical Iceland" (single version)
Track 14: Apostle of Hustle - "Energy of Death"
Track 15: The Mountain Goats - "Palmcorder Yajna"
Track 16: A.C. Newman - "On The Table"
Track 17: Modest Mouse - "Float On"