Boys and Girls in America

Boys and Girls in America

4.5 4
by The Hold Steady
     
 

Those looking for Separation Sunday "part two" may be disappointed by the huge sound Boys and Girls in America has (the band's moved to Vagrant); it's not much of a concept record, and it's not as Catholic, but all those struggles are in here just beneath the surface (and sometimes on top of it). One of the ballads hereSee more details below

Overview

Those looking for Separation Sunday "part two" may be disappointed by the huge sound Boys and Girls in America has (the band's moved to Vagrant); it's not much of a concept record, and it's not as Catholic, but all those struggles are in here just beneath the surface (and sometimes on top of it). One of the ballads here, "First Night," begins with a piano and an acoustic guitar lilting a rather loose melody that gives Craig Finn the support he needs to get out of his pent-up, novelistic, wordsmithing mouth. All of these characters are young, desperate, and fleeing from their inner fear, except for Holly who is wise enough to tell the protagonist that "words alone never could save us."...and then "cried when she told us about Jesus." The piano fills out that unfillable hole in Holly and the rest, no matter where they run. Finn can do nothing but repeat his lines and find a last verse somewhere to let the song just fade into silence, because it never really ends. Boys and Girls in America is a sophisticated shambles. There's still a barely-on-the-rail feel, despite the literate compositions. Finn's always either behind or ahead of the beat, but it's alright, his bandmates can more than handle that because they're as engaged as he is. There are a few guests, and even a horn section on one track, and the classic girl group chorus call and response from Dana Kletter and her gorgeous voice. There's real sadness in the Wall of Sound and chanted chorus in "You Can Make Him Like You," which examines everything from addiction to betrayal, to the insecurity in love that can push someone over the edge, never to return. Thin Lizzy makes a return on "Massive Nights," complete with roiling bass as Finn opens the whole escapist mix, swinging and setting up a hedonist's dream: "The guys were feeling good about their liquor run..." There are low expectations and drama where only the music counts. The tune turns back on itself when the singer is trying to convince himself and the huge, wailing, responsorial chorus, that something so utterly suburban could be cool, until "She had the gun in her mouth/She was shooting up at her dreams/When the chaperone said that/We'd been crowned/the king and the queen." And it just ends. The chorus doesn't repeat. Elizabeth Elmore's and Dave Pirner's character triplet vocals on "Chillout Tent" help to create a sprawling narrative. Finn's the narrator, the other two are such broken and wasted -- even OD'ed -- people; they kiss urgently, which is alternately "sexy...but kinda creepy." The song doesn't really work, but it's brave as hell as an experiment. The reason this record is worth embracing, and even celebrating, is because it's an honest to God rock & roll album. It exposes in the first and third person what it means to grow up right now in the midst of suburban waste. It's angsty, but Finn's got a sense of humor, and the band can play their asses off. That they so readily embrace rock history as a means of unfolding Finn's stories suggests that "cool" and "indie" are simply terms in the larger dialogue. This is a smoking little record. Its focus is small, but reach is large; it's a winner.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times - August Brown
Hold Steady's balding, bespectacled frontman is our best shot at a new Springsteen.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/03/2006
Label:
Vagrant Records
UPC:
0601091044227
catalogNumber:
442
Rank:
62652

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Hold Steady   Primary Artist
Dave Pirner   Vocals
Drew Glackin   Lap Steel Guitar
Dana Kletter   Vocals
Craig Finn   Group Member
Franz Nicolay   Group Member
Elizabeth Elmore   Vocals
Tad Kubler   Group Member
Alan Ferber   Trombone
Caleb Burhans   Viola
Peter Hess   Tenor Saxophone
Galen Polivka   Group Member
Jean Cook   Violin
Lloyd Debonis   Trumpet

Technical Credits

John Agnello   Producer,Engineer
Greg Calbi   Mastering
Steve Fallone   Mastering
Bob Strakele   Guitar Techician
TJ Doherty   Engineer
Peter Hess   Horn Arrangements
Sacha Penn   Text
Sharon   Management

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