The thinking man's bar band, the Hold Steady use a thundering classic-rock template--evoking everything from Boston to the Faces--as a base from which lead singer Craig Finn delivers his epic sung-spoken Springsteen-esque narratives of searching for faith and redemption at the bottom of an empty bottle. Refreshingly irony-free, the Hold Steady are one of the best reminders of rock & roll's classic spirit to have emerged in the early years of the new millennium.
It''s only natural that the Hold Steady singer Craig Finn receives all the attention. After all, he''s the one with the big mouth. And while his odd and humorous rants are essentially compelling, they wouldn''t be half as engrossing if his backing group, especially fellow ex-Minnesotan and Lifter Puller guitarist Tad Kubler, didn''t smack up such a glorious din, scabrous punk rock swagger dolled up with classic hard rock power chords. "Separation Sunday" is the NYC-based group''s second album and it''s every bit as sassy and city wise as their 2004 debut "Almost Killed Me." Finn doesn''t know the meaning of the phrase ''hold your tongue'' and rudely shouts down the opposition on a number of romantic and religious matters, underscoring his contempt with touching moments of true pathos. Finn''s surrounded by self-mutilators, abused lovers and deluded characters desperately chasing faith. It''s a good thing he has such a crack band to keep them all in check. -- Jaan Uhelszki
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