The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady's Official Website!

By Blair Hook

WHEN: 2003- Present

CULPRITS: Craig Finn(vocals/guitar), Tad Kubler(lead guitar), Bobby Drake(drums), Glen Polivka (bass), Franz Nicolay (keyboards, accordian, harmonica, etc.)

ALBUMS: Almost Killed Me (2004); Separation Sunday (2005); Boys And Girls In America (2006); Stay Positive (2008)

HOW: Ah yes, I remember it well. The year was 2006 and I was, generally speaking, in a rut. Horrible job, crazy life stuff happening, and basically just not very happy. That was also the year I really threw myself into music as a distraction from the day-to-day drudgery of my so-called life. I was like a sponge, listening to as much as I possibly could. One band name kept coming up that I had never heard before, this band called The Hold Steady. The always fruitful combination of boredom and curiosity finally led me to hopping over to their MySpace page one day and it took about 20 seconds into the song “Swish” to realize that my musical life was never going to be the same. It was love at first listen. Since then I have immersed myself in the Hold Steady discography, and I can’t imagine my life without these songs in it.

WHY: As a kid growing up in the suburban Midwest,there is so much that I can relate to in the stories that Craig Finn spins in his songs.While the grandiose visions of love and loss played by bands like Radiohead are often beautiful, they don’t really speak to me. The Hold Steady always does. And his juxtaposition of Midwestern suburban youth culture and religion (especially on the Separation Sunday record) speaks volumes to me. He has an amazing knack for writing these incredible, hyper-literate lyrics without ever sounding pretentious, not an easy trick to pull off. Not only do they not come off as pretentious, they absolutely rock — in the most anthemic of ways. Oh, and speaking of anthems, there is nothing in the world more cathartic than a Hold Steady show. Getting together with about a thousand new friends and screaming along to every … single … word. Absolute bliss. Man, I could talk about why I love this band forever, but I don’t want to bore you … let’s get to the songs.

SONGS: Another beautiful thing about The Hold Steady is the common thread that seems to run through their entire catalog of songs. Listen to their entire discography and you will keep running into familiar people and familiar places … Charlemagne, Holly … Ybor City, Payne Avenue. It’s a beautiful thing, I assure you, like visiting old friends. I hope some of that comes through in this play list. I had to start my set of songs with the tune that started it all for me “Swish” and had to end it with the band’s staple show closer “Killer Parties.” Had to. The songs in between are my personal favorites. “Certain Songs” is like a love letter to pop music, “Positive Jam” is 20th century American History as interpreted by the Hold Steady, and “Constructive Summer” has what is probably my favorite song lyric ever: “Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer/He may have be our only decent teacher.” The others are all scratched into my soul, one way or another.

LINK: Click on the list to hear every album by The Hold Steady for FREE on!

Click the list to hear The Hold Steady on


“Constructive Summer” from Stay Positive


Blair Hook is a music-obsessed guy from Columbus, Ohio — cubicle-bound corporate slave by day, live music junkie by night. His personal heroes include Charles Bukowski, Lester Bangs, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Glen Hansard. Check out his blog at Certain Songs.

~ by Brad East on October 5, 2009.

7 Responses to “The Hold Steady”

  1. Blair, I love this!!!! Never knew the story behind your love for the HS. Thanks for sharing, wonderful write-up, as always.

  2. Ooh yaay! Great concept!! I love this, especially coz you’re picking out a lot bands that I like 🙂

    • Thanks a lot! Checked out “Music Cookies” – some good stuff! You should consider creating an 80MFL list yourself!

  3. Ohio, this is wonderful. Love that the story is now in print and what a selection of songs – two thumbs up. The list certainly wouldn’t have been complete without Certain Songs.

  4. Excellent write-up, Blair. The perfect homage to one of my favorite bands, both live and via album. High five on the Glen Hansard mention too.

  5. Nice writeup. Love the song “Stay Positive”, great tune.

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