The Daily Square

Certain Songs #604: The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer”

July 27th, 2016 · No Comments

hold_steady -stay_positive-frontal Album: Stay Positive
Year: 2008

Some of you might have noticed that one of the things I really like in an artist is prolificness.

And by the standards of the 21st century, putting out their three albums in three years, the Hold Steady were absolutely on fire. So to me, the two years between the world-beating Boys and Girls in America and the 2008 follow-up seemed almost interminable.

All of which was instantly forgiven the second “Constructive Summer” came pouring out of the speakers, combining Tad Kubler’s punk riff with Franz Nicolay’s Jerry Lee Lewis piano and maybe Craig Finn’s best opening verse ever.

Me and my friends are like
The drums on “Lust for Life”
We pound it out on floor toms
Our psalms are sing-along songs

Man. It was great to have them back, this band that somehow crammed nearly every other band I ever loved into their super-smart, super-rocking songs.

Summer grant us all the power
To drink on top of watertowers
With love and trust and shows all summer
(Get hammered!)

Let this be my annual reminder
That we could all be something bigger

“Constructive Summer” perfectly captures the essence of first week of summer, when you’re still reeling from the last days of class, but you know that you have just limited amount of time to get the shit done you wanna get done.

And with Tad Kubler’s guitar squealing around the edges, the last verse nearly tops the first.

Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer
I think he might have been our only decent teacher
Getting older makes it harder to remember
We are our only saviours
We’re gonna build something this summer

An absolute scorcher from start start to finish — even the piano-driven breakdown burns and crashes — “Constructive Summer” a near-perfect way to kick off what turned out to be the difficult follow-up album.

And if Stay Positive turned out to be a skosh too restless — some of the experiments slightly off, some of the rockers slightly rote — I still loved it nearly as much as the two titanic records that proceeded it.

“Constructive Summer” performed live in 2009

Fan-made video for “Constructive Summer”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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Certain Songs #603: The Hold Steady – “Southtown Girls”

July 26th, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

First it’s just Craig Finn:

“Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay”

Dead air while the rest of the guys saunter up to their respective mics to join in with some raggedly imperfect harmonies.

“Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay”

More dead air. Tumbleweeds. Days, weeks, months pass.

And then, with a swoosh of Franz Nicolay’s organ, the entire band kicks in, and it’s utterly glorious.

Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay

Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay

And then, just like that, Kubler, aided by the huge spaces in Bobby Drake’s drumbeats, peels off yet another big-ass Zep riff that kicks “Southtown Girls” into a new lane.

Meanwhile, Finn gives us some unreliable narration on just how to find the titular girls:

Take Lyndale to the horizon
Take Nicollet out to the ocean
Take Penn Ave out to the 494

Near the end, after a nice twin-guitar solo by Kubler and a rarer-than-rare harmonica solo by Nicolay, the back half of the last verse gets almost funky, as Gavin Polivka leans into his basslines over Drake’s stuttering beat while Finn leaves a couple of text messages.

Meet me right in front of the rainbow foods.
I got a brown paper bag and black buckle shoes.
If anything seems weird then just cruise.

Meet me right in front of the party city.
That two sided tape it gets way too sticky.
I got a bad case of noisemaker blues.

But with “Southtown Girls,” it’s all about that chorus, which rings out over and over again, always keyed to that organ swoosh and those joyful harmonies.

Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay
Southtown girls won’t blow you away
But you know that they’ll stay

Easily the least epic of all of the Hold Steady’s album closers, “Southtown Girls” is nevertheless a fitting closer for Boys and Girls in America, positing that after all of the craziness that goes on between those American boys and girls, sometimes a little stability is just what the doctor ordered.

And for the second straight year, The Hold Steady had made my favorite album of the year.

The last time that had happened was was 1979-1980 with St. Joe Strummer and The Clash, back when I was just beginning to live some of these stories.

Fan-made video for “Southtown Girls”

“Southtown Girls” performed live at Glastonbury, 2007

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Certain Songs #602: The Hold Steady – “Chillout Tent”

July 25th, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

It seems to me that “Chillout Tent” is one of the more divisive songs in the Hold Steady canon.

After all, the story it tells is a combination of meet-cute and meet-gross, featuring a pair of singers — Dave Pirner and Elizabeth Elmore — voicing the thoughts of the characters in the songs, and the music is filled with dramatic piano flourishes and mariachi horns.

Oh and did I mention that it is almost unbearably poignant? All about that one-off make-out session that could have only happened under the exact right circumstances. Or in this case, the exact wrong circumstances. To wit:

There was a stage and a PA
Up in western Massachusetts
The kids came from miles around
To get messed up on the music
She drove down from Bowden
With a carload of girlfriends
To meet some boys
And maybe eat some mushrooms

And, of course, she did. Too many, as a matter of fact, and ended up in the titular tent. Where she met this dude, who looked a lot like my man Izzy Stradlin, and was having his own problem with the misdosing of the substances.

His friend gave him four
But he said only take one
But then he got bored
And he ended up taking all four
So now my man he ain’t that bored, anyways
The paramedics found him
He was shaking on the side of the stage

And so, there they both are. A bit dazed, and wondering how they got there, as first Pirner and then Elmore sing:

Everything was spinning
And then I came to in the chillout tent
They gave me oranges and cigarettes
I got really hot
And then I came to in the chillout tent
They gave us oranges and cigarettes

At this point, Tad Kubler’s guitar is spinning in circles, like a camera doing a 360 around the center of scene, so we can clearly see what’s going to happen next, as they start talking about poetry and stuff.

They started kissing
When the nurses took off their IVs
It was kind of of sexy
But it was kind of creepy
Their mouths were fizzy with the cherry cola
They had the privacy of bedsheets
And all the other kids were mostly in comas

And with the piano dancing on the mariachi horns, they both reflect on what was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He was kind of cute
We kind of kicked it in the chillout tent
And I never saw that boy again
She was pretty cool
We kind of kicked it in the chillout tent
And I never saw that girl again

There’s also a great musical joke/tribute in the last chorus, where they double-track Dave Pirner’s vocals, just like it was double-tracked in so many Soul Asylum songs.

There is an extra level of wistfulness in “Chillout Tent” that I don’t find in any other Hold Steady songs. Maybe because the characters themselves are singing, maybe because Finn-as-narrator is always going to have the narrator’s distance in his songs, even the ones where he’s a participant.

Maybe it’s those fucking horns, which simultaneously signify both joy and sadness of what was both a completely unique experience and completely lost opportunity. Like, maybe if they had met under different circumstances, it would have been different.

Fan-made video for “Chillout Tent”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #602: The Hold Steady – “Chillout Tent”

July 25th, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

It seems to me that “Chillout Tent” is one of the more divisive songs in the Hold Steady canon.

After all, the story it tells is a combination of meet-cute and meet-gross, featuring a pair of singers — Dave Pirner and Elizabeth Elmore — voicing the thoughts of the characters in the songs, and the music is filled with dramatic piano flourishes and mariachi horns.

Oh and did I mention that it is almost unbearably poignant? All about that one-off make-out session that could have only happened under the exact right circumstances. Or in this case, the exact wrong circumstances. To wit:

There was a stage and a PA
Up in western Massachusetts
The kids came from miles around
To get messed up on the music
She drove down from Bowden
With a carload of girlfriends
To meet some boys
And maybe eat some mushrooms

And, of course, she did. Too many, as a matter of fact, and ended up in the titular tent. Where she met this dude, who looked a lot like my man Izzy Stradlin, and was having his own problem with the misdosing of the substances.

His friend gave him four
But he said only take one
But then he got bored
And he ended up taking all four
So now my man he ain’t that bored, anyways
The paramedics found him
He was shaking on the side of the stage

And so, there they both are. A bit dazed, and wondering how they got there, as first Pirner and then Elmore sing:

Everything was spinning
And then I came to in the chillout tent
They gave me oranges and cigarettes
I got really hot
And then I came to in the chillout tent
They gave us oranges and cigarettes

At this point, Tad Kubler’s guitar is spinning in circles, like a camera doing a 360 around the center of scene, so we can clearly see what’s going to happen next, as they start talking about poetry and stuff.

They started kissing
When the nurses took off their IVs
It was kind of of sexy
But it was kind of creepy
Their mouths were fizzy with the cherry cola
They had the privacy of bedsheets
And all the other kids were mostly in comas

And with the piano dancing on the mariachi horns, they both reflect on what was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He was kind of cute
We kind of kicked it in the chillout tent
And I never saw that boy again
She was pretty cool
We kind of kicked it in the chillout tent
And I never saw that girl again

There’s also a great musical joke/tribute in the last chorus, where they double-track Dave Pirner’s vocals, just like it was double-tracked in so many Soul Asylum songs.

There is an extra level of wistfulness in “Chillout Tent” that I don’t find in any other Hold Steady songs. Maybe because the characters themselves are singing, maybe because Finn-as-narrator is always going to have the narrator’s distance in his songs, even the ones where he’s a participant.

Maybe it’s those fucking horns, which simultaneously signify both joy and sadness of what was both a completely unique experience and completely lost opportunity. Like, maybe if they had met under different circumstances, it would have been different.

Fan-made video for “Chillout Tent”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #601: The Hold Steady – “You Can Make Him Like You”

July 24th, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

This is my favorite song on Boys And Girls in America.

“You Can Make Him Like You” is everything I could want in a rock ‘n’ roll song: catchy, smart and anthemic, and not for a second does it ever stop moving and changing, even as it builds to a fist-pumping, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs climax.

It comes roaring out of the gate with a balance of stinging guitars and big piano hook, before dropping into a quietish first verse where Craig Finn’s giving some pretty sketchy advice:

You don’t have to deal with the dealers
Let your boyfriend deal with the dealers
It only gets inconvenient
When you want to get high alone

You don’t have to know how to get home
Let your boyfriend tell the driver
The best way to go
It only gets kind of weird
When you wanna go home alone

I can’t deny it, there is a bit — maybe even a lot — of meanness in “You Can Make Him Like You,” but the second the full band roars back in between those first two verses, I’m gone. I’m totally and completely gone, so I’m going to make the excuse that this song is about a specific, damaged person.

You don’t have to go to the right kind of schools
Let your boyfriend come from the right kind of schools
You can wear his old sweatshirt
You can cover yourself like a bruise

For four verses, “You Can Make Him Like You” gets more and more intense, so when Franz Nicolay adds a soaring organ and piano triplets to the mix for the chorus, all I can do is sing along.

If you get tired of the the car he drives
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you
If you get tired of the music he likes
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you

At that point, the music drops into a “Candy’s Room” drumroll and piano duel for the bridge, and Finn makes one last observation:

They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start to do it alone
They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start bringing it home
They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start sleeping alone

And then, “You Can Make Him Like You” trumps itself one last time by going into a full-throated stop-time singalong of the chorus:

There’s always other boys
There’s always other boyfriends
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you
There’s always other boys
There’s always other boyfriends
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you

It’s so huge and anthemic that maybe it comes across as empowerment. After all, who wants to deal with the deals or the drivers or the status. Let him deal with all of that shit, and if he turns out to be a dud, find somebody else.

Maybe. All I know is that except for “The Swish,” the ending of “You Can Make Him Like You” is the part of any Hold Steady concert where I lose it the most, just shouting that chorus at the top of my lungs for all I’m worth.

“You Can Make Him Like You”

“You Can Make Him Like You” performed live at Glastonbury 2007

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #601: The Hold Steady – “You Can Make Him Like You”

July 24th, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

This is my favorite song on Boys And Girls in America.

“You Can Make Him Like You” is everything I could want in a rock ‘n’ roll song: catchy, smart and anthemic, and not for a second does it ever stop moving and changing, even as it builds to a fist-pumping, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs climax.

It comes roaring out of the gate with a balance of stinging guitars and big piano hook, before dropping into a quietish first verse where Craig Finn’s giving some pretty sketchy advice:

You don’t have to deal with the dealers
Let your boyfriend deal with the dealers
It only gets inconvenient
When you want to get high alone

You don’t have to know how to get home
Let your boyfriend tell the driver
The best way to go
It only gets kind of weird
When you wanna go home alone

I can’t deny it, there is a bit — maybe even a lot — of meanness in “You Can Make Him Like You,” but the second the full band roars back in between those first two verses, I’m gone. I’m totally and completely gone, so I’m going to make the excuse that this song is about a specific, damaged person.

You don’t have to go to the right kind of schools
Let your boyfriend come from the right kind of schools
You can wear his old sweatshirt
You can cover yourself like a bruise

For four verses, “You Can Make Him Like You” gets more and more intense, so when Franz Nicolay adds a soaring organ and piano triplets to the mix for the chorus, all I can do is sing along.

If you get tired of the the car he drives
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you
If you get tired of the music he likes
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you

At that point, the music drops into a “Candy’s Room” drumroll and piano duel for the bridge, and Finn makes one last observation:

They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start to do it alone
They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start bringing it home
They say you don’t have a problem
Until you start sleeping alone

And then, “You Can Make Him Like You” trumps itself one last time by going into a full-throated stop-time singalong of the chorus:

There’s always other boys
There’s always other boyfriends
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you
There’s always other boys
There’s always other boyfriends
There’s always other boys
You can make him like you

It’s so huge and anthemic that maybe it comes across as empowerment. After all, who wants to deal with the deals or the drivers or the status. Let him deal with all of that shit, and if he turns out to be a dud, find somebody else.

Maybe. All I know is that except for “The Swish,” the ending of “You Can Make Him Like You” is the part of any Hold Steady concert where I lose it the most, just shouting that chorus at the top of my lungs for all I’m worth.

“You Can Make Him Like You”

“You Can Make Him Like You” performed live at Glastonbury 2007

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #600: The Hold Steady – “First Night”

July 23rd, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady boys Album: Boys And Girls in America
Year: 2006

Boys and girls in America.

I’m sure I’m conflating a bunch of different memories into a single moment, but I still have a memory of the first night I felt part of the Fresno Tower scene. It was a warm summer evening in 1985, and it was at the Wild Blue.

Boys and girls in America.

I don’t recall who was playing: it coulda been Aqua Bob or The Wayne Foundation or Western Chapter or somebody else. It doesn’t really matter, because there was as much going on outside as there was inside.


Boys and girls in America.

And by “as much” of course, I meant that there were a lot of college girls hanging around outside, not old enough to get in. Some of them I’d met at CSUF, others I hadn’t. All of whom were smart and interesting and — maybe not on that first night — were coming to the realization that maybe us boys and girls were all becoming part of something bigger, even if we couldn’t define exactly what that was.

Boys and girls in America.

But in the meantime, let’s walk over to Mayfair market across the street and get some beer so we could sit on the warm asphalt and talk.

Boys and girls in America.

When Craig Finn referenced Jack Kerouac for the title of this album — and made it a refrain in this song — he was drawing a line straight through decades of American youth, creating scene and spitting white noise for a time, and then watching it all disintegrate over time, because that’s the only possible outcome.

Boys and girls in America.

Of course, you don’t know that on the first night. Instead, you’re completely overwhelmed by the sea of possibilities, and want it to last forever just so you can experience every single one.

But of course that sea narrows down to a trickle.

Boys and girls in America.

And I think that’s what the slow, piano-driven ballad, “First Night,” is about: about coming to terms with that inevitability. And while the details of the song are different than the details of my life, the feeling it evokes is utterly spot-on.

Holly’s inconsolable
Unhinged and uncontrollable
Because we can’t get as high as we got
On that first night

So I watched our scene coalesce, climax and crash within the space of several years, and then got the hell out of town because I didn’t know what else to do, but have always wondered who I would have been if I hadn’t.

Boys and girls in America.

“First Night” performed live

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #599: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy”

July 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady chips ahoy Album: Boys and Girls in America
Year: 2006

“Chips Ahoy” was the first single from “Boys and Girls in America,” and like “The Swish” and “Banging Camp,” Craig Finn is trying to fit all of his words in and around Tad Kubler’s big-ass power chords.

The result is one of those Hold Steady songs that sounds like one of of the rockers from The River had that album been made by a Springsteen influenced not by 1960s frat-rock, but rather, The Clash.

So it’s guitar guitar guitar until Finn comes in.

She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race
I think its name was Chips Ahoy!

At that point, the guitars crash louder, drummer Bobby Drake does a couple of rolls, and for a second, we’re all wondering what happens next.

Came in six lengths ahead,
We spent the whole next week getting high
At first I thought that shit hit on some tip
That she got from some other boy
We were overjoyed

Whoa-uh-oooooh-ooh-ooh-ha-ho!
Whoa-uh-oooooh-ooh-ooh-ha-ho!

And so here’s the thing about “Chips Ahoy!” It’s so permeated by those “whoa-oooooh-ooh-ha-hos,” plus massive guitar chords and organ flourishes, you’d be completely excused if you used all of the upbeat joy they signify to ignore the plaintive chorus.

But then again, good luck ignoring this:

How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t let me touch you?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t even dance?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t let me touch you?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t even dance?

Later on in the song, Tad Kubler and Franz Nicolay have a horse race of their own, trading off solos like they’re Jon Lord & Ritchie Blackmore, but again, it just leads back to the unspoken question posed by the chorus, which is this: why am I even here?

Official Video for “Chips Ahoy!”

“Chips Ahoy!” performed live on Later With Jools Holland

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #599: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy”

July 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

hold steady chips ahoy Album: Boys and Girls in America
Year: 2006

“Chips Ahoy” was the first single from “Boys and Girls in America,” and like “The Swish” and “Banging Camp,” Craig Finn is trying to fit all of his words in and around Tad Kubler’s big-ass power chords.

The result is one of those Hold Steady songs that sounds like one of of the rockers from The River had that album been made by a Springsteen influenced not by 1960s frat-rock, but rather, The Clash.

So it’s guitar guitar guitar until Finn comes in.

She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race
I think its name was Chips Ahoy!

At that point, the guitars crash louder, drummer Bobby Drake does a couple of rolls, and for a second, we’re all wondering what happens next.

Came in six lengths ahead,
We spent the whole next week getting high
At first I thought that shit hit on some tip
That she got from some other boy
We were overjoyed

Whoa-uh-oooooh-ooh-ooh-ha-ho!
Whoa-uh-oooooh-ooh-ooh-ha-ho!

And so here’s the thing about “Chips Ahoy!” It’s so permeated by those “whoa-oooooh-ooh-ha-hos,” plus massive guitar chords and organ flourishes, you’d be completely excused if you used all of the upbeat joy they signify to ignore the plaintive chorus.

But then again, good luck ignoring this:

How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t let me touch you?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t even dance?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t let me touch you?
How am I supposed to know that you’re high
If you won’t even dance?

Later on in the song, Tad Kubler and Franz Nicolay have a horse race of their own, trading off solos like they’re Jon Lord & Ritchie Blackmore, but again, it just leads back to the unspoken question posed by the chorus, which is this: why am I even here?

Official Video for “Chips Ahoy!”

“Chips Ahoy!” performed live on Later With Jools Holland

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

File Under: The Daily Square

Certain Songs #598: The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations”

July 21st, 2016 · No Comments

Hold Steady+Stuck+Between+Stations+-+Clear+399660 Album: Boys and Girls in America
Year: 2006

Welcome to my favorite album of this century.

Actually, (and yes, I’m “actually”ing myself), welcome to my favorite album since Nevermind & Achtung Baby!, which makes Boys and Girls in America my favorite album of the past quarter-century.

And if I could somehow prorate the age I was when this album came out against the age I was when I first discovered all of the albums I would otherwise put into my all-time top 20, it would definitely be in the conversation.

On Boys and Girls in America, their sound thickened. If Franz Nicolay’s keyboards were used for color and flavor on Separation Sunday, now they were an integral part of a thick stew.

It’s all right there in the opening of the first song on the album, “Stuck Between Stations,” which opens with a guitar stab that is almost instantly countered by a rolling piano and a kick drum build into the song proper, at which point Craig Finn essays his thesis statement for the entire album.

There are nights when I think
That Sal Paradise was right
Boys and girls in America
They have such a sad time together

It’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll subject, of course. The classic rock ‘n’ roll subject really, but Finn infuses his tales of young love and lust with a specificity that resonates beyond the individual people he’s writing about.

She was a really cool kisser
And she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer
But she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend
He likes the warm feeling
But he’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear
But tonight it’s like he’s stuck between stations

On the radio

In fact, it resonates beyond generations. I mean, in the age of digital tuners, getting stuck between stations is a near-impossibility, and yet anybody who hears this song knows exactly what he’s on about. And it also helps that Nicolay’s backing vocals come in just perfectly throughout.

And the stinging guitar that Tad Kubler brings in after the chorus doesn’t hurt, either.

There was that night that we thought
John Berryman could fly
But he didn’t, so he died
She said “You’re pretty good with words,
But words won’t save your life”
And they didn’t, so he died

I didn’t know who John Berryman was, but I sure got the Jim Carroll reference, and either way, that verse was funny and poignant at the same time, and has always killed me, maybe because I’m always worried about whether or not I’m going to need my words to save my life, as well.

It’s only a guess, but the mix of wit and full-bore rock — even during the piano breakdown — that defines “Stuck Between Stations” is probably why it’s probably the consensus favorite Hold Steady song as far as the fanbase is concerned.

It’s not mine, but it is a helluva way to begin a helluva record.

Official Video for “Stuck Between Stations”

“Stuck Between Stations” performed lived on Late Night with David Letterman

“Stuck Between Stations” performed live on Later With Jools Holland

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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