Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Contenders Series #28: The Hold Steady - "The Weekenders"

Okay, I have a LOT of posts in various stages of completion, but I'm seeing the Hold Steady at the Fillmore tomorrow night, so let's knock out a few Hold Steady tangent posts.

This one is called "The Weekenders," and I think it's my favorite track on the new album (Out now!  Go buy it!).  It's quintessential Hold Steady:  big chorus, veiled references to past songs (Is "that whole weird thing with the horses" line a reference to "Chips Ahoy!" ... maybe so!  Also, have you guys heard that Paul is dead?), and one absolute knockout lyric that everyone immediately latches onto ("She said 'The theme of this party's the industrial age / And you came in dressed like a train wreck'").*  So give it a listen below.  Now, let's talk about something not really related.

* A few blogs I've read have posited that the second half of that lyric is actually Craig Finn's response to the woman who says the first line about the party, like it's a call-and-response.  I don't see that at all.  For one, there's nothing in the syntax of the line to suggest it.  Secondly, though, it just goes against Craig's whole songwriting style.  He's not the witty hero of his songs.  More often than not, he's the butt of the jokes.  As he is here.  And that's why we love him. 

I know most arguments never end, but I always enjoy the rare moment when they do.  Even if I come out on the losing end, it just feels like something has been RESOLVED.  Here's an example:

Long, long ago, back in mid-March (I know, we were all different people back then), a bunch of us were sitting around Zeke's drinking buckets of Bud heavy and watching the tournament games.  Jerry and I got to talking about music, and, being the predictable conversationalist I am, I brought out one of my favorite devil's advocate positions.

Basically, it is this:  a lot of the most influential musical acts of all-time have actually done more harm than good, from a utilitarian standpoint.  My example is always Nirvana.  As I've said in this space before, I think they are merely okay.  Fine with me if YOU worship them, but they never really hit for me.  Nirvana has given me a small but measurable amount of happiness.  So far, they are still in the plus column.

However, Nirvana is also directly responsible for a HUGE percentage of the worst music of all time:  Creed, Nickelback, Three Doors Down, Staind ... would any of that crap exist if Nirvana didn't create a blueprint for them to blatantly rip off?  I say no.*

* I feel the same way about 2Pac.  Guy's got some good songs, but, y'know, thanks for Ja Rule, buddy.

So I've often said that if you gave me a choice between (a) the world the way it is now and (b) a world where Nirvana didn't exist, but neither did the horrible bands that followed them ... I would probably choose option (b).

I think Jerry had heard this bit from me before, because he was totally ready with a response.  I didn't transcribe it or anything, but it was basically this:

"Right, but you have to look at the state of the music industry in the late '80s and early '90s.  You had nothing but glam-rock and this kind of caricature of a rock star, and you had these big, shiny, heavily produced songs, and the prevailing attitude was, 'This is the kind of music people want, and these are the kind of people they want to sing it, and so we're going to give them exactly that," and so things got incredibly formulaic.  No one in the industry wanted to take chances.

"And then Nirvana came along, and sold billions of records, and the labels woke up and realized that there was a market for music that didn't fit their pre-packaged definitions, and so there became a demand for alternative acts of all kinds, whether they sounded like Nirvana or not, that it could be a profitable endeavor to sign these bands, to develop them, promote them, that the tastes of the record-buying public would encompass almost anything done well.  That attitude stuck around.  And so, ten or fifteen years later, you had a record label mindset where they thought it was a good idea to sign your precious Hold Steady.  That wouldn't have happened without Nirvana."

And then he just kinda looked at me, and what could I say?  That's an oversimplification of what he said, and what he said was an oversimplification of what was really going on, but ... yeah.  That's almost totally correct.  He won.

None of this makes me hate Nickelback any less.

Download:  Hold Steady - The Weekenders

Official Site
Hype Machine
Buy Heaven is Whenever


  1. Now do you want to hear my theory on why Factory Records should be your favorite record label of all time?

    Eh Eh.

  2. I agree that The Weekenders is likely the best song from the album. It's probably the go to song for their "sound." Great album. It keeps growing on me.

  3. I don't think HS is that derivative of Nirvana though. I would say they are more linked to the NYC resurgence of garbage band indie rock in the early 2000s (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc.)