Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Two go Boss: The suddenly fashionable Springsteen

This week sees two releases from bands confessing a liking to The Boss.

The Hold Steady has always had a a strong E Street band appreciation, and with the new album Boys And Girls In America once again lines itself up squarely between The Boss and the muscle of Thin Lizzy. Singer/lyricist Craig Finn is arguably today's best singer/poet, and the juxtaposition of AC/DC guitars and lyrics like She was a damn good dancer / But she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend hit both the gut and the brain with equal force.

Album: The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America
Free album stream (via Vagrant Records)

As if to announce his lyrical intentions, Finn quotes Keroac's Dharma Bums right off the bat in the opening track:
There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right
Boys and Girls in America have such a sad time together

- "Stuck Between Stations"
Two songs might break the band out from their current small circle: the excellent lead single "Chips Ahoy" and the equally impressive "You Can Make Him Love You." Even the ballads here ("First Night," "Citrus") work well as a change of pace in the midst of all the muscle. Once again, Finn weaves his storylines around the Twin Cities and More Cowbell put together a Google map pointing out all the geographic points of interest that are brought up in the Boys And Girls In America.

Boys And Girls In America is a step up from last year's Separation Sunday, which says a lot considering how good that album was. It's still early in my listening of the album, but I may have to bump this up over TV on the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain for my album of the year.

Meanwhile, in another Springsteen mood, is the latest from The Killers. Where The Hold Steady have always been straight shooters, The Killers latest feels like an overreach in earnesty. They've ditched their suits and ties and have copped a western look, complete with facial hair seemingly organized for each band member to not duplicate it's pattern from face to face - ust the kind of randomness that's a tip-off to orchestration.

Brandon Flowers has been fond of relating his rebirth as a songwriter after discovering early Springsteen, but I'm not sure I hear it. Lyrically, "When You Were Young" hints at the Boss, but only if filtered through a 90's-era Bono. While 2004's Hot Fuss met with some derision (mostly after it became ubiquitous,) they sounded in their element, depth-wise. Sam's Town, by comparison, sounds like The Killers just decided to skip releasing a sophomore album and instead move on to their 5th album, which is either really daring, or just plain stupid. So far my ears are leaning towards the latter..

Album: The Killers Sam's Town

Update: It appears Salon has the same idea (I like my headline better, though.)

The Hold Steady playing 7th period
Woke up in the grass with the assless chaps (Essential Lifter Puller)

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Shawn Anderson said...

The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America

1. Stuck Between Stations
2. Chips Ahoy
3. Hot Soft Light
4. Same Kooks
5. First Night
6. Party Pit
7. You Can Make Him Like You
8. Massive Nights
9. Citrus
10. Chill Out Tent
11. South Town Girls

Shawn Anderson said...

The Killers - Sam's Town

1. Sam's Town
2. Enterlude
3. When You Were Young
4. Bling (Confession Of A King)
5. For Reasons Unknown
6. Read My Mind
7. Uncle Jonny
8. Bones
9. My List
10. This River Is Wild
11. Why Do I Keep Counting?
12. Exitlude