The Hold Steady’s third full length album hits the Springsteenian chord that The Killers strived for in their self-hyped and horribly flat album Sam’s Town. The Hold Steady, however, achieved it in a fuller sense: not just by replacing synthizers with glockenspiels. BBoys and Girls of America captures the youth of the nation, in the way Born to Run encapsulated the generation of The Boss.
Featuring epic rock riffs and a level of musicianship generally missing in indie rock, The Hold Steady’s musical brilliance is almost overshadowed by the poetic prose of Craig Finn. He delivers each line like a softer Bruce and a harder Shatner, but he speaks completely free of irony, once again a departure from most indie bands.
Like previous material, Finn concentrates on the hoodlum debauchery of urban youth, messed-up Catholics and suicidal heroines. Boys and Girls of America continues in the storytelling tradition as well. “Chips Ahoy!” chronicles times spent at a horse racing track. In the wonderfully sappy duet “Chillout Tent,” Finn tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, joined together in a concert medic tent, after both OD-ing.
Songs like “Massive Night” and “Citrus” dive into new waters and prove to be two of the most memorable songs of the year. “Massive Night” is the catchiest stuff the band has put out, complete with backup vocals and handclaps. By far the gem of the album has to be “First Night” – an instant classic ending with a dramatic reciting of the album’s name.
Boys and Girls of America is a rare album from a rare band. Rock and roll void of Foo Fighters clichÇs and indie pop without the exclaimation point pretension, The Hold Steady is great at every angle. They, along with bands like Drive-By Truckers, have shown that rock and roll is far from dead (despite attempts by The Killers and Jet).
This near perfect album is an instant classic and by far one of the best of the year.