September 11, 2009

NT's greatest hits, vol. 19 (of 34)


"Chips Ahoy!" by the Hold Steady

I gotta be honest, as much as I like the Hold Steady, they are one of those bands for whom I have less patience than I should. They are such a critics' band; the kind of act that cognoscenti cream themselves over, disproportionate to their popularity in the real world, mostly because they tend to remind critics of themselves, or at least their rock-star fantasies of themselves. Yes, this is impatience is partly because I used to be an aspiring member of that same elite, with the same fantasies, and I just grew weary on the whole masturbatory business ("A profile of Thurston Moore again?"). Nonetheless, I really do dig the Hold Steady, unlike some other critical darlings whose appeal has always mystified me (I have never gotten, say, Pavement, much to DJ GB's chagrin).

For those of you who were not college-radio DJs: The Hold Steady is a pretty straight-down-the-middle, anthemic rock band from Brooklyn, fronted by a sort of hipster-rock Bruce Springsteen character named Craig Finn (I mean, he's holding a beer in that photo, for God's sake). His songs are very literary, full of monster-sized hooks, yearning, hope, a desperately quavering voice, all that good stuff, which really is a very important part of rock & roll, if you ask me (and you're here, so you sort of did). Finn grew up in the Minneapolis area, and his songs frequently refer to the Twin Cities and thereabouts, striking a nostalgic chord with my college years.

"Chips Ahoy!" is the second track on Boys and Girls in America, the Hold Steady's 2006 album, which will make your fucking heart burst, it's so wonderfully sad. The narrator of this tune sings about his girlfriend, whose apparent psychic abilities enable her to clean up at the racetrack (Chips Ahoy! in this scenario is a horse); this segues into a lament of how their relationship is poisoned by a lack of communication and connection. "How am I supposed to know that you're high if you won't let me touch you?" the chorus goes. "How am I supposed to know that you're high if you won't even dance?" A plaintive pattern of "Woah-ho-oh-oh" backs him up, and the bridge has an extremely interesting couplet, which I've adapted more than once into my Facebook status: "She's hard on the heart and she's soft to the touch./She gets migraine headaches when she does it too much." And dig that instrumental interlude; these guys can play, yes sir. Here's a great and crazy live version:

Great video, too; sad and funny…

More of NT's greatest hits:
"Radio, Radio," "Could You Be the One?," "Summer in the City," "Teenage Kicks," "Strawberry Fields Forever, " "Tunnel of Love," "I Get Around," "Local Girls," "Don't Let's Start," "Suffragette City," "See-Saw," "My Name Is Jonas," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Reelin' in the Years," "Objects of My Affection" and "Crimson and Clover," "OK Apartment" and "Just What I Needed"

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