Despite putting out their records in the era of shuffled playlists, The Hold Steady have had a tradition of ending their albums with an epic, multi-part song.
And given that it was concept album, Separation Sunday is no exception, capping off with the haunting “How A Resurrection Really Feels,” which kicks off with a lengthy curlicue guitar riff as Craig Finn lets us know what’s up with one of the major characters, Halluejah, who the kids call Holly.
The priest just kinda laughed
The deacon caught a draft
She crashed into the Easter mass
With her hair done up in broken glass
She was limping left on broken heels
When she said, “Father, can I tell your congregation
How a resurrection really feels?”
And as Holly’s story gets told, augmented by the guitar riff and even some horns, the guitars ebb and flow until the inevitable breakdown and resurrection of the song into something else entirely different.
That’s when Franz Nicolay’s keyboards starts floating through the track like a ticking clock and the backing vocalists start chanting “Walk on back, walk on back,” like a pair of hoodrat Dionne Warwicks who’d only heard her song on the radio that one time.
That’s when Craig Finn ends the album with the perfect mix of the sacred and profane, looking at this woman who’s clearly had a some kind of epiphany and noticing the exact wrong thing.
Hallelujah was a sexy mess
She looked strung out but experienced
So we all got kind of curious …
After that, Tad Kubler comes in with a long guitar solo fighting for space with the chants of “Walk on back” and the horns and the endless tick-tock of the keyboards, and it’s utterly gloriously sexy mess in and of itself, not to mention the perfect way to end this sprawling, ambitious sexy mess of an album.
Separation Sunday was easily my favorite album of 2005, and probably the 2000s, and if you were to ask me in early 2006, I would have said that it was quite possibly the best album of the decade, or at least in the conversation.
One thing I was certain about, there was no way The Hold Steady was going to be able to top it. Until they did.
“How A Resurrection Really Feels” performed live in 2009
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