A couple weeks ago (I’m really almost totally caught up to the present tense now, I swear!) I saw The Hold Steady perform at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse. They put on the familiar, expected, and wholly wonderful show that I have grown to love seeing them perform. So a few days ago, when I ordered the Roky album, I preordered Heaven Is Whenever (and The New Pornographer’s new one, Together, out the same day–Will Scheff don’t ever leave me alone). I had heard a few new songs from the new album at the show. I have also heard the “it’s OK” buzz about their latest disc, but I was one of the few it seems, who loved Stay Positive and prefer it to their other efforts (for the record my preference: Stay Positive, Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America, …Almost Killed Me). Hell, I named this blog after some text in the title track; my psalms are sing along songs.
Then Jason Heller of the AV Club, published this article today, considering truth amongst music lyrics. By the end of it he gets to the heart of the question, connecting the THS picture into the narrative of how fiction weaves into truth, creating myth. The universiality of this myth is what draws people into the narrative: neither Finn nor I have ever experienced everything first-hand that he describes, but we’ve seen some of it, heard about more of it, and run across some people who might be these characters. His lyrics and music are what unify those scenes together, and we end up prefering this hybrid or style of lyrical story telling to other types.
I started thinking about the kind of connection that THS makes with me in each of their albums. There is a reason why Boys and Girls in America begins with a reference to Kerouac’s On The Road: the characters Finn creates are just as similarly the voice of a particular youth, at a particular time (wheather Kerouac meant it so universally as it grew is another story). For THS, they mean it sincerely as a validation in the form of understanding, aggradizing, and reverence for the youth-dominated music scene, and the necessity of that youth image in the tapestry of American culture. However, it is very hard to separate youth culture from rock and roll, not to mention rock and roll from the culture of youth.
So where does that leave me? I still want to rock, and so do all of the fans at the shows that I’ve attended, no matter how old they are. Some of us might have dealt with Myrtle Gordon’s issues–I know I have, though certainly not in her idiosynchratic way–which is why Stay Positive connected with me so well. The earlier albums provide the needed background to make the mythology work, and like what most good art, provide a relatable creation that is as truthful as reality. I don’t want to lose the ideals, the dreams I had as I get older–and The Hold Steady’s music has allowed me an opportunity to feel, more than ever, that I don’t have to, and that I’m not alone with this desire.
So I’ll be honest, I’m anxious for what May 4th will bring, since I can’t stream the album at the office.