The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America

Boys And Girls In America (2006)


1. Stuck Between Stations 2. Chips Ahoy! 3. Hot Soft Light 4. Same Kooks 5. First Night 6. Party Pit 7. You Can Make Him Like You 8. Massive Nights 9. Citrus 10. Chillout Tent 11. South Town Girls


Well hot damn, that first song makes me happier than Tony LaRussa at a surly asswipe convention (I’ve got the Cardinals-Braves wild card game streaming right now, and it’s kind of nice not having to endure the camera panning over to Russ’s scowling countenance every fifteen seconds. I’ll never be able to think a good thought about him again after he sullied Albert Pujols’ good name by dragging him to Glenn Beck’s wingnut rally in Washington). “Stuck Between Stations” is, if you axe me, the definitive Hold Steady song. Who knew there was still such old school majesty and power to be wrung out of a I-IV-V chord change? Feel the drama when the guitars come crashing in to interrupt the Roy Bittan-like piano bridge – one of those precious moments in music that never fails to send chills up my spine. An all too rare 21st Century rock classic.

So Boys And Girls In Your Butthole was THS’s breakthrough album on the strength of the hit singles “Stations” and “Chips Ahoy,” which is not about the delicious brand of cookies, but rather a stoner chick who uses her powers of clairvoyance to predict the winners of horse races, a talent she and her friends of course use to score fat cash for pot. And we all know that girl, right? OK, maybe not, but I’m willing to bet most of know that group of friends who seem united primarily by their love of getting high. I live right next door to one, for instance. But overall, I’d say Boys And Girls gained THS a wider audience thanks to a certain few musical developments, like Craig actually trying to sing melodies more often than not. That’s a big one. Franz also adds some funky 70s-style keyboards that compliment Tad’s newfound obsession with Thin Lizzy-style harmonized double guitar overdubs nicely and give the band a fuller, more carefully arranged sound. They’ve also gotten more diverse in their songwriting efforts, doing everything from double time cock rock (“Same Kooks”) to acoustic indie folk (“Citrus”) to power pop (“You Can Make Him Like You”) to epic balladry (“First Night,” whose slow build up coda rivals the “Stuck Between Stations” bridge for emotional release).

So why only an A-? Well, I could bitch about the overly compressed mix that was all the rage in the mid-2000s, but I’ve done that before. Mostly it’s because “Chillout Tent” is a massive pile of bullshit. Stupid, riffless song with a dumb story about a dude and a chick taking too many drugs at a music festival. Said characters are played by guest singers whom I’ve never heard of – the girl sounds like a Jersey bimbo with a cold who has never sung before in her life, and the guy sounds like some douchebag trying out for Jesus Christ Superstar. Hideous. The following track, “South Town Girls,” is thankfully much better, and fulfills the iron clad requirement that all Hold Steady album closer must, under penalty of death, be at least five minutes long and have an obvious audience sing-along part. But when compared to its doppelgangers—“Killer Parties,” “How A Resurrection Really Feels,” “Slapped Actress,” and “A Slight Discomfort”—its sounds sorta half-developed and disorganized. I’d replace the last two songs with the killer B-sides that are tacked on to the end of my digitally (and legally) acquired version of the album – the butt kickin’ “Girls Like Status” and the melancholy/bombastic “Arms And Hearts.” That version would probably get an A so the Hold Steady should call me and let me sequence their albums.

Notable lyrics!

“She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian/She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend.”

“Those Twin City kisses/They sound like clicks and hisses”

“She gets migraine headaches when she does it too much/She always does it too much”

“Holly’s insatiable, she still looks incredible/But she don’t look like that same girl we met/On that first night”

“When they kiss they spit white noise”

“She said, ‘I think all those things I did/Were just momentum from the party pit’”

“You don’t have to deal with the dealers/Let your boyfriend deal with the dealers/It only gets inconvenient/When you wanna get high alone”

“Lost in fog and love and faithless fear/I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere”

Miscellaneous quotes!

“I don’t understand how the infield fly rule works” – a Major League umpire

“We are classless inbreds and enjoy throwing garbage at people” – Atlanta Braves fans

“I love Big Bird” – Mitt Romney

“I love lamp” – Brick Tamland

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