The Hold Steady 

Separation Sunday

The Hold Steady's songs conjure up armpit-smelling punk-rock dives, slutty girls with crooked smiles, fistfights between drunks who can barely stand up, and shlubs hanging out at house parties long after they ended. It's sentimental stuff that longs for more glorious times and celebrates them to the point of fiction. Craig Finn, who used to front the Minneapolis band Lifter Puller, doesn't quite sing, but rambles and rants lyrics like She got screwed up by religion/She got screwed by soccer players/She got high for the first time in those camps down by the banks of the Mississippi river/Ahhhh, to be seventeen forever. With both Lifter Puller and the now-NYC-based Hold Steady, Finn's stream-of-consciousness lyrics and clever rhymes stand out. The piano-tinged music and the whole vibe of the band recalls Bruce Springsteen, but the Hold Steady doesn't take itself seriously like the Boss. Instead, it spews out sloppy bar rock for romantic drunkards to clink glasses to.

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