The Hold Steady: saving Britain, one footnoted lyric at a time.
Steve Jobs may have lost faith in his countrymen’s literary appetite, but across Ye Olde Pond there’s another view: Unlike Britain, America is producing bands that read and shit. (Or should it be: “who read and shit”? Or whom? Where’s my editor? Where's Steve Jobs?!)
The Guardian’s Ally Carnwath makes the argument--and it’s a convincing one, even to this alliterate Yankee troglodyte, as Jobs might label me--that Britain is suffering an “indie malaise.” The antidote? Acts such as Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, David Berman, and The Hold Steady. I would add that The Decemberists deserve a little leather-bound cred, too, even if frontman Chris Meloy uses “pantaloons” and “dungarees” in the same song. Talk about needing an editor…
While the article features tons of nifty insights into Britain’s beer-laced fest circuit and Vampire Weekend’s educational background, it’s The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn who provides professorial illumination. Slipping on his houndstooth jacket and pouring himself a snifter of port, Finn waxes philosophic about the banality of poetry readings and the art and craft of songwriting:
“I find playing songs and having people sing them back to you gratifying in a way that say poetry readings aren't….There, it’s just 15 people being quiet and getting ready to read their own work. There’s no sense of community and it doesn’t seem as exciting as going out and trying to share your ideas with real people in front of you.”
And a little later:
“People have this idea of songwriting as being really personal….If you write a song, it must have happened to you--a confessional thing. But I find that rather self-indulgent. I have always been interested in creating characters and trying to make something more cinematic, something bigger.”
God bless America.