The music world has gone through a multitude of changes since the days when rock anthems ruled the universe. Classic rock riff-monsters like “Free Bird,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Rock and Roll All Night,” and “Smoke on the Water” each ruled the FM airwaves as well as got the beach balls bouncing, the lighters waving, and the braless wonders flashing. With the addition of a few elements of 80s Midwestern punk (ie, Husker Du and the Replacements), the New York via Minneapolis band The Hold Steady attempts to recreate an entire albums worth of classic 70s anthems on its sophomore release Separation Sunday.
By way of 11 hard-rock raveups about scoring, getting fucked up, and the tragedy of Stevie Nicks (most of the lyrics are actually pretty witty and delivered in a storybook Springsteen fashion) and including a barrage of power chords, gruff vocals, and cowbells, the band tries really hard to make you believe that the power of rock and roll still exists. Fortunately, the music falls closer to fist-pumping lunacy than total contrivance.
“You’re Little Hoodrat Friend,” “Banging Camp,” and “Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night” are each classic-styled party anthems filled with the all-important ingredients of bile, righteousness, and bile, while “Stevie Nix” is a hilarious and heartfelt highlight of the disc. Behind the underbelly of scruffy guitars and “Thunder Road”-styled piano playing, “Stevie Nix” romantically laments the passage of rock and roll time and features such twisted lines as “the nurses made jokes about the ER looking like an afterbar,” “she got screwed up by religion, she got screwed by soccer players,” and “she got strung out on the scene and she got scared when it got druggy.” The only unfortunate moment on the otherwise stellar Separation Sunday is “Charlemagne in Sweatpants,” which sounds a bit too much like a Loverboy outtake (the only thing missing is the John McEnroe headband).
While far from perfect, The Hold Steady’s sloppy take on classic rock is actually quite refreshing and much more fun than most current indie rock and British post-punk revival wankery. Give Separation Sunday a listen and it will stir up that hidden urge to get stoned and check out Pink Floyd laser show at your local planetarium.