By The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady spray paint a neon landscape of deadbeat dives where get-rich-quick schemes are played out by bible-quoting barflies and women of ill repute. Though they still trade in specifics (fleshed out images and people rather than generalisations), this debut UK single is a departure from the ragtag cast of characters who appeared sporadically over the previous two albums. Here they reduce the concept down to boy meets girl, where excess returns at the track lead to excessive drug abuse: "I got a girl and she don't have to work/ She can tell which horse is gonna finish in first... Came in six lengths ahead/ We spent the whole next week getting high."
Readily identifiable by Craig Finn's spirited narrative and Tad Kubler's fresh take on classic rock lead guitar, they continue to refine their irrepressible amalgamation of rock styles. Whilst they could be (and often are) accused of pilfering the work of AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen, they manage to avoid sounding like an anachronism (unlike identikits Jet and The Datsuns). Finn grew up in the Twin Cities during the golden age of American hardcore and was able to find another generation of rock heroes in his own home town: Hüsker Dü and The Replacements.
Stepping up a level from old label French Kiss to major-minor Vagrant (Alkaline Trio, Get Up Kids) will put pressure on The Hold Steady to produce something for the masses. Their switch suggests they were growing sick of hitting higher on critical lists than billboard charts; this simple and catchy track does act as an excellent primer but fails to match the emotional resonance of certain sections from 'Separation Sunday'. It's as close to a pure pop song as they've constructed so far. Their latest album 'Boys And Girls In America' is belatedly released in the UK in January and internet hearsay suggests that the long wait for a UK tour could soon be over.