The intensity of any song on the Hold Steady's SEPARATION SUNDAY should be enough to pop most listeners' sprockets. The project of ex-Lifter Puller vocalist/guitarist Craig Finn, the Hold Steady plays music that draws on the sound and structure of classic rock, complete with air-guitar-inspiring riffs and solos, thunderous drum breaks, blasting horns, and rollicking piano. Yet it is Finn's writing and singing that makes the Hold Steady special. Sounding like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and the Fall's Mark E. Smith, Finn channels his startlingly imaginative lyrics through an angry sing-shout.
Finn has a penchant for detail-rich character sketches ("Stevie Nix"), depictions of hard living ("Cattle and the Creeping Things"), and religious metaphor ("How a Resurrection Really Feels"). With lyrics that bear testimony to a life lived to the hilt, Finn's songs overflow with brilliance, anguish, and passion, and even at his most narrative and witty ("Charlemagne in Sweatpants") he paints unsettling, mesmerizing pictures. Yet the Hold Steady's general sound is straight out of FM radio, lifting Finn's dark meditations on a heroic wave of rock grandeur. Familiar and utterly unique at once, SEPARATION SUNDAY demands attention and a very loud stereo.
Rolling Stone (pp.81-81) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[A]t once surreal and gloriously sweaty....SUNDAY succeeds as a whirlwind tour through an overstuffed brain."
Spin (p.64) - Ranked #10 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2005" -- "[T]hese Brooklynites bust out chapter two of indiedoms most incisive soap opera."
Uncut (p.110) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "Franz Nicolay's piano...becomes an essential emotional component of The Hold Steady's evolving ambitions on the second album..."
Magnet (p.52) - Ranked #15 in Magnet's "The 20 Best Albums Of 2005" - "No hungover opportunist should miss this concept album about party martyrs."
Magnet (p.98) - "SEPARATION SUNDAY is a book-on-tape, a grim and funny tome that draws from the Bible and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS."