Recap: The Hold Steady, Meat Puppets, and Retribution Gospel Choir at First Avenue

“We are The Hold Steady, and we’re gonna have a good time tonight!”

Usually when a singer introduces his band like that on stage, it’s just a platitude, an easy way to warm up the crowd. But when Craig Finn says it in Minneapolis, and particularly at First Avenue, you can be damn sure he means it. In strict terms of residency, The Hold Steady might be a New York band, but its heart has always been here in Minnesota. That’s hardly a secret, of course—Finn has been mining his Minneapolis past for lyrical material ever since he and fellow expat Tad Kubler formed THS out of the ashes of Lifter Puller, using it as an essential backdrop for his long-running, loosely connected song cycle about being young and down-and-out. The passing of years makes the theme increasingly nostalgic and hazy with each successive album, but it doesn’t seem like Finn will drop it anytime soon—not when Heaven Is Whenever kicks off with a line about living on Hennepin Avenue.

So when The Hold Steady comes home to the bar one block away, they own that stage. And that’s because we Twin Citians own The Hold Steady. Never mind New York; these guys are ours. “I don’t think anyone understands what we’re talking about half as well as you guys do,” Finn acknowledged during “Little Hoodrat Friend.” Finn makes an unlikely rock star, dressed in a black button-down short-sleeve shirt like a guy from the IT department who’s busting out a few of Mick Jagger’s moves. He had a look of pure joy on his face the whole night, and it was mirrored in the ecstatic mood of the audience, which burst into explosive life for the headliners after an appreciative but more subdued response to openers The Meat Puppets. The crowd clearly knew all the songs by heart and sang along to every syllable.

Originally published Dec. 30, 2010 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

Review: The Book Of Right On, All These Songs About Music

The Book Of Right On, All These Songs About Music (Half Door Records)

For years now, David Joe Holiday has been one of the Twin Cities music scene’s most consistently compelling creative forces. But the propulsive, controlled chaos of his songwriting has been matched by an inability to keep a band together, with both Kentucky Gag Order and Belles Of Skin City breaking up just when they were starting to show their potential. With any luck, the third time will be the charm, because the Holiday-fronted Book Of Right On has all the elements that made his old projects great: complex, intricate polyrhythmic percussion, a sly sense of humor, and plenty of head-pounding, punk-rock power.

Originally published Dec. 22, 2010 on avclub.com as part of a group-written roundup. Read the complete article.

Review: Einstürzende Neubauten, Strategies Against Architecture IV

Born out of the Berlin performance-art scene in the early 1980s, Einstürzende Neubauten (along with Throbbing Gristle) staked out the most confrontational, challenging territory of the then-new industrial genre. The group’s deliberately cacophonic approach reverberated in more dance-floor-ready groups like Ministry and Front 242, as well as art-punks like Wire, but Neubauten pushed sonic deconstruction to the limits of tolerance. The results were often harsh and frightening, and less recognizable as music than as recordings of some deadly forklift accident in a sheet-metal factory. The band’s output slowed after leader Blixa Bargeld joined Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, but always kept clawing at the edge of the experimental frontier. That uncompromising aesthetic (not to mention lyrics that were mainly in German) ensured a limited cult audience, but Neubauten’s influence can be heard in later bands from Mr. Bungle to TV On The Radio.

Neubauten celebrates its 30th anniversary with the double-disc Strategies Against Architecture IV, its fourth retrospective compilation. Picking up studio recordings and rarities from 2002 to 2010, it showcases a band that may be older and mellower than the explosive early sturm und drang, but still remains far ahead of most others of its kind. Bargeld and company explore textured, even minimalist territory on the chilling drone of “Insomnia,” while the more propulsive “Dead Friends (Around The Corner)” and “GS1 & GS2” put them in company with Wire’s recent Read & Burn series. Ironically, for a band whose very name expressed its anarchist tendencies—it means “Collapsing New Buildings”—Neubauten has long since proved that its music has staying power.

Originally published Dec. 7, 2010 on avclub.com. Read the complete article.

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