MCC - Lifter Puller

New No. 2 Todd Stevens and I went head-to-head over the new Hold Steady album, Heaven is Whenever, but you can't see it yet because there's nothing there (Update: link fixed here). But one thing we all can agree on is that this isn't the same crew we met in 2004.

I think a big part of Craig Finn's appeal is his ability to sound so close without sacrificing any of his world-wide perspective. On their first three albums, the Hold Steady were just trying to be each of our favorite bands; they became the biggest band by default. But Lifter Puller don't sound like they're trying to be my favorite band, they sound like they're trying to be their own favorite band. Finn's incisive lyrics are still pointed, but he doesn't dress them up in fables the way Separation Sunday's narrative does.

Finn's lyrics have always been pretty intimate and insightful, but whereas the Hold Steady's usually trying to teach us a lesson, Lifter Puller's just laying their cards on the table. Here, he's just recanting stories; and even moreso than most Hold Steady joints, on Lifter Puller he sounds the most convincingly like a guy who just walked up to you at a bar to talk. He's fighting for an audience and fighting for volume. "Well, ok, I guess I'll just pick it up right after the breakdown."

Lifter Puller sound like a talent-show band, but not necessarily a high school one. They're sloppy and loose like a band assembled and producing music in an abbreviated time, but they carry themselves with a swagger that makes it seem like there's money on the line. They want people to like them, but they can't help but indulge themselves because this is just a one-off joint.

"Nassau Coliseum" sticks out most as a song that tries to reach heights Finn didn't know existed until only recently. But its plain-clothes earnestness seems to say that they don't care how much it resonates with us: To those guys, the ones who know it and play it, that song is huge.

The "Further Listening" sections on the Hold Steady include Guided by Voices, Ted Leo and Spoon, but they may as well start to include Lifter Puller, too. They're still distinguishable in their own right and offer enough of a change of pace to be different. But most of all, we know they'll never lose their perspective.

1 comment:

  1. I re-posted the dueling Heaven is Whenever reviews so they're now available to the online world.

    New url: