7. The Devil And John Berryman


7. Boys And Girls In America – The Hold Steady

The name that gets dropped with this band is Springsteen. They mix that urban poetry, that hopeless romance, that growing old feeling, with grinding guitars and rapid fire lyrics.

But many have done this before (hello, Marah) but the Hold Steady have gone for the throat. The album is called Boys And Girls In America for fuck’s sake. Let’s put aside the freakiness of a 37 year old (lead singer/songwriter Craig Finn) singing about teenage girls, and celebrate a doomed youth.

Most of the songs have to do with the great unwashed, and how beautiful that is. Chillout Tent is about being taken out of a festival and catching the eye of another outcast of the opposite sex (and never meeting). You Can Make Him Like You is about a girl who is seeking boyfriend who comes from a better school.

I love the album cover. Just a bunch of kids partying. And how those weekend nights will add up to their life. And how important it is to them, to us. And the title of the album, declaring that they are going mass market. Indie band is going for the suburbs. It’s all there in the standout, Massive Nights, about liquor runs, fights, girls with something to prove, and one of my favourite lines:

“Everyone was funny, everyone was pretty
And everyone was heading to the centre of the city.”

This has got to be the getting-ready-to-go-out record of the year. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s the best record to feel nostalgic about the times when you did that.

The best song on the record though, the one that’s gotten the most talk, is the opener, Stuck Between Stations. An inflated, overly romantic retelling of John Berryman’s suicide. It imagines his depression, walking with the devil over Washington Bridge, the moments before his suicide. And hidden not very far below the cleverness and the wit, is a big fat slab of riff rock.

The perfect record for a massive night.

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