The Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America


4.5
superb

Review

by JAD USER (11 Reviews)
June 14th, 2007 | 25 replies | 2,854 views


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Near masterpiece from a band that is somehow much more than the some of their parts

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

The thing about The Hold Steady is that they really, really shouldn’t be this good. No matter how clever Craig Finn’s lyrics may be, they’re still all about the exact same thing (tight character sketches of teenage addicts, drifters, and slackers.) And the band itself never turns out songs that are anything but a sludgy amalgam of Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements. The thing is, the Hold Steady really are that good. Good enough to receive unanimously glowing reviews and top year end lists with this album while still not seeming overrated. There’s just something about the band’s songs that take on another life that their simple arrangements don’t suggest. Part of it is Finn’s fantastic, rapid fire lyrics (“parking lot poems” as they have been described) delivered in a sharp speak-sing style and a thick Midwestern accent. The other part is that their ability to turn even the simplest of riffs into a sharp intro or a catchy hook. Boys and Girls in America isn’t much of a departure from their past two records, but it’s the culmination of them. The band stick to simple rock ‘n roll guns, so much so that you’d never guess that keyboardist Franz Nicolay is a member of circus punks World/Inferno Friendship Society, but it doesn’t really matter, their songs are so good.

Kicking off with the Springsteenian “Stuck Between Stations”, the band lay all their tricks on the table: catchy guitar riffs, E Street Band piano lines, noisy soloing and brilliant lyrics. It’s a style that permeates tracks like “Hot Soft Light” which rides a huge powerchord riff and slick wah riffs from lead guitarist Tad Kubler as Craig spins tales of prescription pills that make old heavy metal songs sound “stony and adorable.” Elseware, Finn underpins seemingly happy characters with depression, as on “Chips Ahoy” with lyrics like “Some nights the painkillers make the pain even worse” and an aching reframe of “How I’m supposed to know that you’re high if you won’t let me touch you?/How I’m supposed to know that you’re high if you won’t even dance” as the band belt out a supremely catchy chorus of “whoas.” Or on the perfect party rocker “Massive Nights” where a simple tail of fratboy excess ends with a closing line of “she had a gun to her mouth/she was shooting up at her dreams/when the chaperone said we had been crowned king and queen.”

Perhaps the best thing you can say about Boys and Girls is that it does the impossible: it makes a power ballad good. Not just good but excellent. The best track on the CD, “First Night”, boasts a melodic piano lead and heartfelt chorus, but several minutes into the song it takes a turn that no standard power ballad would. A rhythmic piano line takes over and slowly builds to a crushing coda, replete with Finn snarling “Don’t bother talking to the guys/with the hot soft eyes/you know they’re already taken/don’t even speak to those sequence and beats boys/when they kiss they spit white noise.” Its moments like these that make Boys and Girls in America so good. The shimmering guitars of “Party Pit” could be U2, until it builds into ending reframe of “gonna walk around/gonna walk around/gonna walk around and drink” that could only be, well, The Hold Steady. Finn has the rare gift to make lyrics like that sound utterly brilliant, which demonstrates on tracks like “You Can Make Him Like You” which benefits from an irresistible chorus to back Finn’s story of the dangers of getting high alone or the creepy addicts that populate “Chillout Tent.” His lyrics are populated by sardonic lines like “He’d been to school but never finished/he’d been to jail but never prison.”

No, Boys and Girls In America never really moves past its simple roots. There is no speedy drummer who underpins the songs rhythms and takes them to no heights, nor is there a dynamic lead guitarist who plays circles around the band. If you’re looking for some secret to the Hold Steady’s success, you won’t find one because, frankly, it doesn't exist. For whatever reason Craig Finn and co.’s songs are just incredibly good. So listeners, don’t worry: a three powerchord riff can still make a great riff, and sex drugs and rock ‘n roll can still be the topic of great lyrics.

Recomended Tracks:
Stuck Between Stations
Hot Soft Light
First Night
Party Pit
You Can Make Him Like You
Chillout Tent



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user ratings (277)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
BigHans (5)
What the perfect rock album sounds like....

Kiran EMERITUS (5)
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together....


Comments:Add a Comment 
samthebassman
June 14th 2007



2164 Comments


Good review, I cant stomach this band, they sound so boring.

JAD
June 16th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Anyone else?

JAD
June 26th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

???

plane
Staff Reviewer
June 26th 2007



6085 Comments


Good review. I've heard a lot of good things about this, but I never wanted to check it out. I might now.

descendents1
June 26th 2007



702 Comments


This is a really good review. Springsteen and the Replacements I think is a bad comparsion as a composition and it should just be left at Springsteen alone. This sounds ridiculously like Springsteen. Overall I thought it was a fun album and worth 8~9 dollars.

JAD
June 26th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I always got a strong Replacements vibe from them, but Springsteen is probably the bigger influence. Thanks for the comments.

aristotelis
November 17th 2007



115 Comments


I llllllllloooooooovvvvvveeeeee Chips Ahoy.It's the best song of this album

NewBorn
May 19th 2008



1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing band, amazing album.

TrafficHaze
May 21st 2008



80 Comments


Excellent review. Lyrically, this is one of the best albums I've ever come across. And the Springsteen comparisons are definitely appropriate.

joshuatree
Emeritus
August 23rd 2008



3743 Comments


Recently rediscovered this album. The lyrics here are just sick.

OneDeadCop112
January 10th 2009



57 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My god.

This album, just completed my life.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 10th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's near perfect isn't it?
The follow up album, Stay Positive, is really good as well.

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

MarcusSiregar
February 16th 2009



54 Comments


oshi

johnfromcca
February 19th 2009



45 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Chillout Tent is so warm, I love it
And though Southtown Girls is a pretty good closer, for some reason I have an extra song [Arms + Hearts] at the end of my copy and it works much better. It's great.

I don't know what to do about this; Stay Positive was my favorite album of '08 and now I think this might top it. my rating objectivity keeps dropping because I only listen to albums that I know are good :

Kiran
Emeritus
February 20th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my rating objectivity keeps dropping because I only listen to albums that I know are good

dude, same. My rating objectivity keeps getting lower because I've spent the last few months only getting stuff I'm pretty much predisposed to liking.

Kiran
Emeritus
September 11th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hollys inconsolable
unhinged and uncontrollable
because we cant get as high as we did
on that first niiiight

Finn is one of the most overlooked lyricists

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2009



17200 Comments



Finn is one of the most overlooked lyricists
123123123123123123123

xNintendoCorex
September 26th 2009



1272 Comments


epic typo in the summary.

Near masterpiece from a band that is somehow much more than the some....


Kiran
Emeritus
October 10th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bumped to a 5. review will be up in a few days hopefully. first one since that cymbals eat guitars review which was in march i think.

BigHans
October 21st 2009



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Gonna walk around and drink some more!



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