The Hold Steady isn't the kind of band you crank up in the car if your 16-year-old cousin is riding shotgun. Because by giving that knowing nod to songs like the debauched rocker "Party Pit," it'll be obvious that you're way too familiar with the burnt-out, hung-over characters singer/songwriter Craig Finn is so expert at detailing.
Inspired by such great American writers as Jack Kerouac and John Berryman, and fueled with visions of Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg's best moments, The Hold Steady's acclaimed Boys and Girls in America is the band at their most accessible. There are no punches pulled as slashing guitars and pounding drums help Finn describe the constant carousing - booze, romance, weed, anxiety - of listless teens and twentysomethings. We talked to Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler about their band's tales of wasted days and wasted nights; both weighed in with a list of favorite tunes about sipping the spirits.
1) Jim Carroll Band, "I Want the Angel"
That's my favorite song by him. Metaphorically, he's talking about this angel, this perfect high. All that Jim Carroll stuff is pretty influential on my vocal style. This is one of his most literary songs, it's a very sly song and it flows well together. I knew right away what it was about and read all his stuff and knew where he was coming from. I saw him perform in a reading at Boston College when I went there. He was losing the room and he could tell he was, so he asked people what they wanted to hear and this girl yelled out "I Want the Angel" and he did it a cappella with a maraca. He slithered around this classroom and it was really creepy. It was this lecture at night and the kids were looking bored and when he started doing the song I sat up in my chair.
2) The Replacements, "Here Comes A Regular"
This one deals with the depression [of drinking]. It's sort of a sad one, it comes at the end of that Tim record and it talks about the sadness and depression that goes along with alcohol. I hope that in all the writing we do about drugs and alcohol that's covered. It's not all a celebration.
3) The Replacements, "Beer For Breakfast"
Oh, that's my favorite. "All I wanna do is drink beef for breakfast/ All I wanna eat is them BBQ chips." That's more of the fun part [of drinking].
4) Rolling Stones, "Silver Train"
That's from Goat's Head Soup and he sings, "Silver train is a comin'/ Think I'm gonna get on now." Just because it's Mick and Keith you know it's something bad, but I don't know what it's exactly about. For a while, I thought it was the Silver Bullet, but I don't think those guys drink Coors.
5) Jawbreaker, "Kiss the Bottle"
They wrote almost all great drinking songs, but that one is really good because it also discusses the highs and lows associated with partying. I think that's an important thing to capture in any song about drinking or drugs. [Sample lyric, "I kissed the bottle/ I should've been kissing you/ You wake up to an empty night/ with tears for two."]
1) Willie Nelson, "I Gotta Get Drunk"
[Recites] "Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it/ Cuz I know just what I'm gonna do/ I'll start to spend my money callin' everybody honey/ And I'll wind up singin' the blues." It's totally accurate. [Recites second verse] There's a lot of doctors tell me/ That I'd better start slowing it down/ But there's more old drunks than there are old doctors/ So I guess we'd better have another round." C'mon!
2) Willie Nelson, "Whiskey River"
Whiskey is kinda my drink. This is just a classic country song about drinking.
3) Dillinger Four, "Doublewhiskeycokenoice"
One, because, again, that's my drink. When [Minneapolis'] Triple Rock [Social Club] opened Patty [Costello, D4 bassist] and I started drinking that. No Coke in my drinks in the summer, when I do greyhounds and after Memorial Day I go back to whiskey and after the first snowfall it's double whiskey Coke, no ice.
4) The Pogues, "Sally MacLennane"
That one's absolutely self-explanatory. [Sample lyric, "I played the pump and took the hump and watered whiskey down/I talked of whores and horses to the men who drank the brown."
5) Thin Lizzy, "Whiskey in a Jar"
Again, my drink. Lizzy at their best.