The Hold Steady
Almost Killed Me
T.J. Simon's #8 album for 2004
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9
Written by T.J. Simon
What The Streets did for hip-hop on Original Pirate Material, The Hold Steady does for hard rock on Almost Killed Me, an album that showcases the half-sung, half-spoken vocals of Craig Finn and the eclectic arena rock guitar of Tad Kubler ó both of whom previously performed with the Minneapolis-based, indie rock outfit Lifter Puller. Undoubtedly, the collection is one of the most challenging listens of the year. However, with familiarity comes understanding, at which point the disc becomes one of the most rewarding conceptual pieces in recent memory.
The story outlined, however hazily, on Almost Killed Me centers around Finnís descent into the drugs and booze culture of the punk scene in the í80s and í90s and his emergence on the other end as a survivor. As such, the individual tracks offer Finnís stream of consciousness recollections of the eraís scenes and its participants. He has a penchant for peppering his story-songs with throwback pop culture references that include Steve Perry, Patty Smythe, Meat Loaf, and Right Said Fred (among others), while musically, Kublerís guitar style pays homage to musical motifs that embrace AC/DC (The Swish), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Barfruit Blues), Bruce Springsteen (Hostile, Mass), and U2 (Killer Parties). Most of the time, the pairing works like a charm, although there are moments (Sketchy Metal, Sweet Payne) when the music doesnít match the strength of Finnís consistently compelling musings.
Without question, the central focus of Almost Killed Me ultimately is its lyrics. In essence, itís a hip-hop record for people who hate rap but revere hard rock, and as a result, itís a startlingly unique endeavor, one to which comparisons with other collections are difficult to make. Lou Reedís New York comes close; The Streetsí debut comes closer. Still, this is a disc for music fans who have grown bored with both classic rock and so-called alternative fare. Totally esoteric and conceptual, it will take a few listens with the lyric sheet in hand before the mad brilliance of Almost Killed Me is fully grasped. By then, The Hold Steadyís unique brand of raconteur poetry will become strangely addictive. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Almost Killed Me is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box