“She said ‘Always remember never to trust me.'”
“She said that the first night she met me.”
“She said ‘There’s gonna come a time when I’m gonna have to go with whoever’s gonna get me the highest'”
That was the first thing I ever heard by The Hold Steady. Craig Finn’s voice, ping-ponging between both speakers.
All my life, I’ve been buying music without hearing a note, based entirely on buzz. Sometimes it’s The Clash or Pavement. Most of the time, not so much. And of course, by the time 2005 rolled around, it was mostly the not so much.
So I bought Separation Sunday based entirely on the reviews. Probably at Amoeba, during that time when I was paring down my CD collection while ripping ripping ripping everything I’d acquired over the past 15 years.
And then, after that opening, a swaggering sexy guitar riff kicks in, with the backbeat just fucking strutting down the street, and when a second guitar came in against the first one, and the song was starting and stopping while Finn is continuing his ranting, referencing Lolita and having to concentrate while kissing before he tosses this out:
She mouthed the words along
To “Running Up That Hill”
That song got scratched into her soul
And he never heard that song before
But he still got the metaphor
He knows some people that switched places before
I’m not a words guy. Or I don’t need to be a words guy to love a song. But then when a song sounds like half of my favorite bands rolled up into one, great words are the difference between love and “all-time favorite.”
I like the crowds at the really big shows
People touching people that they don’t even know, yo
And with that, “Hornets! Hornets!” smashes into a wall, and for a second, only Tad Kubler’s guitar survives, ringing woozily until Franz Nicolay’s keyboards & Bobby Drake’s drum crashes recenter him.
Meanwhile, Craig Finn gets even more specific:
I guess the heavy stuff ain’t quite at its heaviest
By the time it gets out to suburban Minneapolis
We were living up at Nicollet and 66th
With three skaters and some hoodrat chick
After this, “Hornets! Hornets!” struts towards its ending by circling back to the opening riff, but with a multitude of guitars now playing around each other with manic precision.
It’s a helluva way to open an album. It’s a helluva way to be introduced to your new favorite band.
And I still don’t know why they called it “Hornets! Hornets!”
“Hornets! Hornets!” performed live in 2009
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