Best of 2004: #20 -- The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me
My first exposure to The Hold Steady was on an outstanding mix CD I got from my buddy shiv on a visit to Beantown earlier this year, featuring masterfully Photoshopped cover art of John Ashcroft accepting a package at the service entrance from a male stripper in fireman's garb. When I heard arena rock power chords interspersed with such I Love The '80s-inspired speak-singing as "She said my name's Neil Schon, but some people call me Nina Simone" -- not to mention more references to partying in Ybor City than you can shake a Thai stick at -- I knew I was in the aural presence of something transcending mere retro revivalism.
I didn't pay close enough attention to the band name at the time, because just two days later on a swing through NYC at a watering hole called HiFi, me and my pals OPA, tthorn, and Gordo were served by a bartender who told us he was in a band called (you guessed it) The Hold Steady! After connecting my Hestonizing synapses shortly thereafter, I realized I had no choice but to pick up Almost Killed Me immediately. If you haven't already done so, that would be my recommendation to you, as well...especially if you've always wondered what it might sound like to hear Fastway fronted by Ken Jennings whenever his balls finally drop.