THE HOLD STEADY
“Open Door Policy” [LP/CD]
(Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers/The Orchard)
The story goes that as former members of Minneapolis’ underrated Lifter Puller, Tad Kubler and Craig Finn wondered what happened to narrative-driven, anthemic sound, and their group, The Hold Steady, was born. For a good five years, they released five albums that made Finn’s witty couplets (“She said my name is Steve Perry … but you can call me Circuit City”) into quotes that would give you instant indie rock carte blanche. Afterward, they slowed down and focused on solo careers. Reunited in 2016, The Hold Steady re-emerged at a time when the rock ‘n’ roll band was starting to resemble the dinosaur. Now rested, refreshed and revitalized, the band is back with some fierce upbeat rock and that air of desperation restored in the lyrics.
“As The Love Continues” [LP/CD]
Post-rock never ends for the Scottish band Mogwai. Since 1995, the band has been churning out albums where one literally challenges the existence of the next one. Somehow, they have managed to contain their loudness into a low-level buzz and distorted hum that allows them to show off distinctive shoegazer rock on this latest album. Where they used to overwhelm, they now introduce hooks (“Ritchie Sacramento”). It’s not that they have done every trick in the book. It is more that Mogwai continues to surprise.
As a writer who truly wants country radio to embrace a wider array of artists and content, this Texan presents his favorite music with a bit of an impasse. There is no doubt in my mind that Wetzel can kick up some dust like the new writers do. However, “Cold and Alone” is a straight rock song. Given its Everclear structure and sound, it is not even southern rock. Furthermore, several songs on “Sellout” go even further in being witty, ribald and even blatant, which could be the next iteration of “outlaw country.” Unlike the outlaws he may wish to emulate, “Sellout” says nothing that has not been said before and better. Still, I respect his honesty in making the music he wants to. He holds promise.
“Zappa: Original Motion
Picture Soundtrack” [LP/CD]
To accompany Alex Winter’s massive Zappa documentary, the Zappa trust gave him unlimited access to the vaults. “Zappa” turns out to be an album that is both Zappa for neophytes and Zappa rarities for the hardcore Zappa-phile. The rarities include eight unreleased live recordings and an Alice Cooper song he produced. Hearing the ‘68 Mothers live at the Whisky a Go-Go is amazing. They run through the doo-wop pastiche on “Ruben And The Jets” and showcase their instrumental prowess on “The Duke.” Further into the archives, tracks from the deleted “Mystery Disc” turn up (“Black Beauty”). Zappa grew larger in the ‘70s with “Cheepnis” from “Roxy & Elsewhere” and the historic ’78 Saturday Night Live performance of “Dancin’ Fool.” It’s a fascinating place to start exploring.
Mik Davis is record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe.