I’m the first person to admit that The Hold Steady wasn’t for everyone. Craig Finn’s ranting-not-singing, complete with a voice that sounded like Tom Waits after sucking helium, could be grating and frustrating. But I always loved it. The band has a storytelling style, much like Springsteen, and tremendous lyrics. Now, what if you took Mr. Finn and put him in front of a postpunk band whose influences were more 1990s than 1970s? Well, you might get Listener.
The Kansas City band calls their style “Talk Music,” and it features hard (and sometimes hardcore) rock themes, with an emphasis on hook and crash, and the occasional horn–but only when necessary to prove a point. And yeah, if you’re going to try something as bold as this, your lyrics better be good. And indeed they are. Songs of alienation and anger, strength and resistance–this is truly a record for our times.
The band is on a European tour right now, but if they hit the DC area I’ll definitely be checking them out.