395. The Hold Steady – “Separation Sunday”

Our domestic odyssey through all fives series of The Wire came to an end on Saturday.

I was wondering where I’d get my fix of junky antics until I spied this album next on the CD rack.

This is one of those rare concept albums that: (a) holds attention; (b) doesn’t reek of self-indulgence; and (c) tells a gritty tale with humour.

We’re thrown into the world of Charlemagne, Holly and their drug-chasing, ass-pimping friends as they roam the bad streets of various cities (although I don’t think Baltimore is amongst the locales).

Over a fantastic bar-room rock soundtrack, we get mainly spoken word vocals that are biting in their vitriol, and absolutely captivating.  Our cast swing through highs (surprise, surprise) and lows, and fire off snappy dialogue worthy of Chandler or Kerouac.  The Catholic imagery flies thick, as Holly wrestles with her demons, while partying very, very hard.

This is a unique album in my collection.  It is not background listening, but more like picking up a grimy book of short stories. These guys have pushed music to an exciting, literary place. And before this I’d never heard the phrase “hoodrat”:

File under: A trial worth enduring

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