“Gideon’s been living up in Bay City, Michigan, And he’s been working at the Michelin. He got messed up with some messed up magicians. We got so high, some nights michigan looked just like a mitten. Some nights we got fried. Strung out on residuals and visuals and laser shows, Reach into the speaker and try to hold on to the quarter notes”
the other day i wrote a lot about This Is Happening, and the takeaway from that might be that We are expecting (from our community’s most Important artists) big innovations, wild ideas, thoughtful and successful changes and progress on each record, and please fit…
With the fan base Finn and Kubler had built with their previous band Lifter Puller, The Hold Steady’s debut was hardly at risk of flopping commercially. However as we’ll see later in the week, they aren’t immune to being panned critically, so Almost Killed Me’s warm reception is a testament to how ready people were to hear the band back together again. This is the first chapter in The Hold Steady’s epic narrative; predominantly it centers on Finn and “the bar band” but it also introduces Hallelujah (mostly known as Holly), Charlemagne and Gideon, the three characters who provide the main focus of The Hold Steady’s stories.
This is the first time we see Holly as Mary, a friend of the band, drunkenly makes out with “that Hallelujah chick.” Later in the night Holly confides in Finn, and reveals some of her tragedy with half-hearted defensiveness. This is also the first time Finn meets Holly, an occasion which is referenced a few times in later albums, though we get a much more detailed look at the nights which led her here on their next album, Separation Sunday.
In terms of instrumentation, Almost Killed Me features the smallest range of their albums. It’s pretty meat-and-potatoes rock, but the extraordinary difference to other guitar-bass-drum bands is Tad Kubler’s guitar lines. Kubler’s solos really stick out, especially on “Most People Are DJs” which, given the impetus for the song’s title, really seems like a special Fuck You to the people who’re spinning other people’s records rather than making their own.
I think that DJing, like rock criticism, tends to be a way for people to participate in the “scene” without taking the risks to the ego that go along with producing music or any other art.
What a week, right? Maura and Idolator are 50% the reason I started writing about music and opened my little punk heart up to the goodness of pop, so reading her on Kelly Clarkson was fantastic. I think I speak for everyone when I say we hope you’re doing okay, Maura!