The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me

[French Kiss; 2004]

Styles: bar rock, classic rock, rock revival
Others: The Hold Steady will always have their detractors; I understand that. Some people love testosterone-fueled bar-band ballads, and others can’t get over the fact that lead singer Craig Finn doesn’t ac

The Hold Steady is the smartest bar band you'll ever hear. They combine all the charm and elegance of a filthy little bar with smart lyrics and an ear for classic rock and roll on their debut, Almost Killed Me. These guys are going to rock your summer, and leave you wanting to knock some back with the drunks down the street.

Former Lifter Pullers and bar crawlers, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler moved to Brooklyn from Minneapolis in 2000. The duo got together with Galin Polivka and Judd Counsell and The Hold Steady was born. Why did four guys from the Midwest move to New York to create a midwestern band? The answer doesn't matter because Almost Killed Me rocks all 50 states. The Hold Steady blends different elements of classic rock and creates music that doesn't sound borrowed or old. They sound both familiar and completely unique at the same time.

The first thing that sticks out on Almost Killed Me is Finn's sing-talking. His voice sounds like it's sucked too much smoky bar air, and his lyrics come straight out of years of house parties and dark watering holes. He is obsessed with identity, too. Lines like, "I've been trying to get people to call me Freddy Knuckles/ but people keep calling me Right Said Fred," are scattered across the album. Finn's songs are built around a world of drugs, parties, and blue-collar kids with nothing better to do. "The 80s almost killed me/ let's not recall them quite so fondly" is the Hold Steady's theme.

Almost Killed Me is the most authentic, dirty, and rocking album you'll hear all summer. They're not too artsy, and they even have a saxophone solo at the end of "Hostile Mass.," but the Hold Steady has more heart than a million laptop musicians. This album proves the guys sucking down cheap beer might be smarter than you think.

1. Positive Jam
2. The Swish
3. Barfruit Flies
4. Most People are DJs
5. Certain Songs
6. Knuckles
7. Hostile Mass
8. Sketchy Metal
9. Sweet Payne
10. Killer Parties