The Hold Steady
Separation Sunday


4.5
superb

Review

by BigHans USER (108 Reviews)
January 14th, 2010 | 63 replies | 12,957 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Perfect in its metaphorical duality, "Separation Sunday" is the Hold Steady's magnum opus.

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

As almost anyone from Minnesota can tell you, growing up Catholic in the Twin Cities Mecca of Minneapolis/St. Paul is one hell of a challenge. The metropolitan area is a textbook in duality; old school Midwestern religious morality colliding with the inevitable decay of urban sprawl; high wealth ranking suburbs nestling all too closely to vast areas of downtrodden plight, two large cities battling for supremacy, all split down the middle by the Mississippi River. Per capita, Minneapolis has one of the highest crime rates in the country while ironically sporting enough churches and cathedrals to cover as a US version of Rome. Home to Prince, Soul Asylum, Husker Du, the Replacements, and most recently, The Hold Steady, it’s also a hell of a scene. As several bible belting parents struggle in vain to reign in the seedier aspirations of their offspring, guys like Craig Finn grow up fighting this duality, reveling in exploitation while barely clinging to salvation, and lived to write about it.

Some view the Hold Steady as just a bar band, and their debut, “Almost Killed Me,” didn’t really attempt to belie the stereotype, with Finn sardonically bellowing about his Crystal Meth and drinking habits over an array of back to basics riffage. Growing up in a strict Catholic house in Minneapolis, it’s fairly obvious that Finn was an ideologically torn thinking man’s hood, the guy who quotes War & Peace and Revelations while mainlining in a darkened room. Judging by his obsession with pop culture, it’s often equally as likely he discussed the theatrical aspects of 80’s era Lionel Richie while tunneling miles of coke, a somewhat tamer version of Christian Bale in “American Psycho.” While Finn’s exuberances may be lightly staged, the fact that he lived to tell about them, and even to glorify them in exaggerated bombast, has proven to be a blessing to the annals of rock music. Without it, we wouldn’t have an album like The Hold Steady’s sophomore record, 2005’s “Separation Sunday.”

“Separation Sunday,” while not their most immediate or musically gripping album, is without question Finn’s storytelling apex, and is considered by many The Hold Steady’s magnum opus. “Almost Killed Me” was a raw, enjoyable, but mostly immature party record. Incredibly coming only one year on its heels, “Separation Sunday” is virtually indistinguishable taken as the sum of its parts, a concept album of religion that showcases an enormous leap in storytelling and musical maturity. “Almost Killed Me" had several cuts meant to be thrown on at a random party. “Separation Sunday” is a full blown album, clearly designed to be listened to in an entire setting. Where “Almost Killed Me” was all about three chord riffs, “Separation Sunday” expounds upon earlier talents with better hooks, more audacious arrangements, intricate mood changes, and big time piano flourishes. From a musical standpoint, “Almost Killed Me” was a step, while “Separation Sunday” is a full bounding leap. Backed by a much tighter band, Finn willingly grasps the reins of maturity, weaving a highly detailed and complex story high on character development. The reference able themes include Saints, Deacons, Rod Stewart, Judas, Minneapolis highways, Hotel Bibles, Eulogies, and the Mississippi River, but the most important is the duality and epic struggle of America’s, and most prominently, the Twin Cities’ youth, and their “druggy little messed up teenage lives.”

“Separation Sunday” is a substantial undertaking for a simplistically labeled bar band. While not their greatest album from a listen-ability standpoint, its trenchant focus, depth, and overall effort ensure its legitimacy, and is without question the band’s most epic undertaking. The great irony, and lesson of the album is while society views Religion as supposedly for the pious and off limits to the wicked, it really only transcends itself fully in an individual after they have embraced the dark side. Over a tightly packaged slab of bar rock, Craig Finn manages to remind us what religion is really about: salvation, soul saving, and redemption, ideals that can only be achieved after seeing the consequences of ignoring them. The point is driven home with great force when one considers this album is really about Finn himself growing up. Although he often revels in the joys of tomfoolery and wretched behavior, Finn provides enough existential duality to prove that Religion, and ultimately salvation, is for the badasses.



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user ratings (162)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
BigHans
January 14th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So yeah, I ran a little long on this one.

jagride
January 14th 2010



2256 Comments


I'll just stick to the Replacements or Springsteen. Nice review, pos'd

Roach
January 14th 2010



2149 Comments


the replacements rule these guys are really average

jagride
January 14th 2010



2256 Comments


Yea i know

Roach
January 14th 2010



2149 Comments


i know you know

BigHans
January 14th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They all rule IMO. Westerberg was a huge influence on Craig Finn, no doubt. "Bastards of Young" rules me.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2010



17114 Comments


cant believe this didnt have a review

Digging: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

Kiran
Emeritus
January 15th 2010



5992 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah me neither when i found out a few days ago. another mammoth review, big hans, well done.

BigHans
January 15th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, yeah, I was astonished this didn't have a review. Its a crime that the best indie rock band doesn't get love on a site like this. Maybe they are just bigger to me because I'm from Minnesota, and they are huge here.

Roach
January 15th 2010



2149 Comments


the best indie rock band lol

BrandNewBoognish
January 15th 2010



1021 Comments


I've heard their records, and seen them live. This band is terrible

BigHans
January 15th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

To each their own. Band rules.

ironbuddahfly
April 17th 2010



8 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review. THS is cross-generational. they meld entertainment and intellect and one of the few bands who speak to the disparatness of post-modern life. they're incredible live and their irony is only equalled by their passion and their rock.

hoipolloi
April 22nd 2010



152 Comments


this album is awesome, i find this one more enjoyable than boys and girls in america. love the ending two tracks

BigHans
April 22nd 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Its more epic than Boys and Girls but I love that album to death. This is great though.

michael021
July 2nd 2010



8 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You are definitely right about this album being their Magnum opus.
Nothing the Hold Steady do now will ever match this.While the Religious references
get a bit much at times there is no other album I prefere to listen to on the third night of a 3 night bender.
It all just makes so much sense.
This album is truly for those who have "lived".
Also for those who have "observed" as well.
Plus the conflict this album is drenched in really gives the piece its energy.
VIVA THE WASTED TRUTH!!


BigHans
July 2nd 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ What this guy said. He's right.

Inveigh
July 19th 2010



24179 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah this is awesome, I might actually like this more than BaGiA, but it's close. excellent review mang

Digging: Symptom - Caverns Of Katabasis

BigHans
July 19th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Inveigh, you actually read the whole thing? This review is insufferably long, even by my standards, lol. I guess I had alot to say about it, because it RULLLLLLLLLLLES.

It is much deeper and complex than Boys and Girls, but simply doesnt rock as hard.

Inveigh
July 19th 2010



24179 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I skimmed a couple paragraphs in the middle (the semi track by track part) but I feel confident in saying I read it all lol

this is an album that can lend itself to a review like this, because you can't really understand it fully in one sitting, but reading about the story helps it sink in quicker



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