Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Thoughts On The Hold Steady Without Research

  • The Hold Steady is a band specializing in making people over thirty feel a little less bad about the fact.
  • They are led by a guy named Craig Finn, who is not intimidating.
  • A lot of rock and roll frontmen are imposing, either in size or looks or reputation for stabbing record company interns.
  • Lemmy’s terrifying.
  • That’s not Craig Finn; in fact, if you were looking for a mathematical expression of rock singers–a Grand Unified Theory of white guys yelping into Shure SM-57s–the expression “Craig Finn=/=Lemmy” might do you well.
  • We’ll get back to Craig, but first an overview.
  • The Hold Steady are from Brooklyn.
  • You can tell.
  • And if you couldn’t, this guy was in the band:
  • [PDF] The Ballstheballs.tumblr
  • That is Franz Nicolay and I am assuming he rode his penny farthing to the photo shoot.
  • He was the keyboardist, and harmonica player, and backup singer, and whatever else needed doing; he may or may not be one of those preternaturally musical people who plays everything better than everyone.
  • The Hold Steady is an unapologetic guitar band, and the piano parts were in the back of the mix, and backup vocals are backup vocals, but after he left the band, it got worse.
  • Like The Band after Richard Manuel died.
  • The first three albums are what you need, plus the contractually-obligated live album; the record after the live album is deeper on repeated listening, but there are identificable cracks in the foundation.
  • The Hold Steady’s career arc is exactly the same as Cheap Trick’s.
  • Go back and listen to Dream Police again.
  • In fact: be a good American and listen to some damn Cheap Trick right now.
  • Cheap Trick is AWESOME.
  • Fuck it: Thoughts On Cheap Trick Without Research.
  • No. Stop it. Get back to the Hold Steady.
  • Fine.
  • The albums you need are Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, and Stuck Between Stations Boys and Girls in America.
  • Also, the live record and the fourth one, both of which have the word “positive” in their titles.
  • There was one that was maybe a little too Jesus-y for me?
  • There have been other albums, I believe.
  • The first three are just tits, though: big, sloppy singalongs about teen junkies and growing up Catholic and winding up back in the church for an AA meeting and the guitarist is great and loud.
  • The Hold Steady’s guitarist is named Tad Kubler, which is not as rock and roll a name as, say, Slash.
  • Or Izzy, for that matter.
  • After a small amount of reflection, Tad is a less rock and roll name than any name from Guns and Roses, including Steve.
  • Regardless of his name, Tad Kubler is a motherfucker: he plays like Steve Jones from the Pistols, huge waves of Les Paul chords with drippy feedback gravy and he can perform all of the Required Moves in the Guitar Hero Olympics.
  • He can make all the guitar noises.
  • I briefly followed Tad Kubler on Instagram, but had to stop.
  • He seems like a lovely man.
  • But he is a Rock Dad, and I just cannot with that.
  • Why does your baby have a Residents t-shirt on?
  • Your baby could not possibly understand the philosophies behind the Residents’ work.
  • Plus, the giant eyeball monsters would certainly make your baby cry.
  • Babies do not like The Residents, Rock Dads of the world.
  • Stop putting them in vintage your onesies.
  • Your baby did not see Maiden on the Powerslave tour.
  • When you put your baby in shirts of bands he does not actually like, you make your baby a liar.
  • Do not make babies liars, Rock Dads: they are babies.
  • Duckies and fucking bunnies and firetrucks and dragons and talking plants: shit like that is for babies.
  • Not Van Halen shirts.
  • Dave or Sammy, baby?
  • Oh, what’s that?
  • You not only lack an opinion, but also lack the capacity for creating such an opinion?
  • Because you are a baby?
  • Because you are a baby.
  • Goddammit, I shouldn’t have to say this: wearing a band’s shirt is a promise; it means something.
  • If I see you wearing a band’s shirt, I assume–at the very least–that you have a well-reasoned argument about the quality of the later-era work, plus you can name at least three of the band member’s ex-wives.
  • Come correct or not at all.
  • Do not make you baby come incorrect.
  • (It should be noted that I have no idea whether Tad Kubler dresses his child up in rock shirts; I just kinda went where my imagination took me. It is, however, true that I followed and then unfollowed Tad Kubler as he does post a lot of pictures of his kid and, you know: I’ve unfollowed family members who do that, so a guitar player I don’t know got chucked right off the side of the boat.)
  • The Hold Steady has a rhythm section, and it’s a good one with utterly no thoughts above their station.
  • I cannot name them.
  • Nor could I pick them out of a lineup.
  • They are both normal-sized, age-appropriate, properly-coiffed white guys.
  • Like, the drummer’s not a massive Samoan dude, or the bass player isn’t noticeably younger than the rest of the band, like that time Dee Dee got thrown out of The Ramones again and they got that 22-year-old blond dude.
  • There may now be another guitarist to replace Franz Nicolay, who left the band for reasons.
  • It doesn’t really matter: the band, both live and in the thick and rocking studio records, is the place where Craig Finn’s voice lives
  • It’s the point.
  • Either you like the sound of the man’s voice or you don’t, and both positions are eminently defensible.
  • Rock has a long history of singers who couldn’t sing: Dylan, Lou Reed, Phil.
  • Milli Vanilli also could not sing, but that’s outside the scope of our discussion tonight.
  • Craig Finn gets better from album from album, but his well-enunciated nasal harangue is there from the first cut of the first record.
  • Which is this.
  • What people don’t notice is his phrasing, splattered and flowing, that propels the songs forward with a rushed force, like a kid on his first acid trip trying to tell you what he just realized about God.
  • Despite these facts, some people think he sounds like a goat with his testicles caught in a fence.
  • This might be a genetic thing, like liking cilantro, so if you can’t take the sound of the man, then you may return to your previously scheduled Grateful Dead.
  • The man can write.
  • “I feel Jesus in the clumsiness of young and awkward lovers.”
  • That’s a good line; most people would call it a day after coming up with that.
  • Even when he flirts with self-parody, it’s with a glee in silly alliteration that keeps threatening on repeated listening to get under your skin, but never does.
  • Too clever by half, but since we’re both aware of the defict, let’s turn into the skid and just have fun with it and name-check Frankie Knuckles.
  • That kind of thing.
  • Speed-shooters, and bartenders, and drug dealers, and lots of rock and roll shows.
  • There is also some goofy shit: for example, Craig Finn enjoys yelling the name of his band, sometimes just out of nowhere, but mostly at the end of songs.
  • Kinda like that “WOAH-oh OOOOHHHHHHH Yeah…YOWza” bullshit Axl used to do.
  • But, in keeping with the inadvertent theme of comparing the Hold Steady to Guns and Roses, Craig Finn cannot sing any of Axl’s songs.
  • He could sing some sort of version of it, but not the actual song.
  • That’s not the point: what is is that Craig Finn writes songs about people who love rock and roll just as much as the people listening to the song.
  • It’s worth hearing the guy out in full at least once. Also, Most People Are DJs has a bitchin’ guitar solo.


  1. It took only one listen to ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’ for me to become a fan:

    True story, I saw them in Detroit the day after they played in Chicago and they didn’t play ‘Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night.’ I was disappointed.

    You’re a real mensch, ToTD, for bringing them up. L’shanah Tovah!

  2. Did I miss the tutorial on how to post images in the comments?

    • Someone help this man, please.

    • Online Image:
      If the image is online then you just need to right click to get the url of the image, copy that and paste it here.

      Keep the image URL on one line and it will show up as an image.

      To verify paste the URL into a browser address bar to make sure it is the image.

      Image on your computer:

      You need to put the image online, tweeting is one way, Tweet the image and then do as above.

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