Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Spinners” by The Hold Steady from the 2014 album Teeth Dreams on Washington Square/Razor and Tie.
It’s reassuring that after a three-year break, everything is not right in the beer-soaked, crowded-at-2 a.m., anthemic barroom universe of The Hold Steady. When the Brooklyn band emerged in 2004, lead singer Craig Finn’s songs caught acclaim for their detailed morning-after retellings of the night before, following his characters from a place where everyone knows their name to a place where they’re-not-even-sure-how-they-got-there with equal parts sympathy and sarcasm. Accompanying Finn down every dive bar pathway were the motley crew of guitarist Tab Kubler, bassist Galen Polivka, drummer Bobby Drake, and keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose balance of bar band rowdiness and ’70s arena rock grandeur cemented the band’s reputation as one of rock’s most consistently great live acts. For four albums and tours in the mid-’00s, The Hold Steady were indie rock’s local bar: an institution that always felt good to return to and, even better, always willing to go one more round with you. However, between Nicolay’s departure from the band and the release of Heaven is Wherever, the band’s first middling album, 2010 seemed to mark the end of the party, which is why it’s such a cause for celebration that Teeth Dreams, the band’s first album since their hiatus and first with guitarist Steve Selvidge, is another collection of clever and rousing tunes that find Finn and co. going back downtown for another round. Although she’s not mentioned by name on “Spinners”, the hard-charging second track on Teeth Dreams, it’s easy to see some similarities between the song’s unnamed female protagonist and Holly, the lapsed Catholic protagonist of 2005’s Separation Sunday. Both women are fumbling through their crises (midlife or otherwise) one drink at a time, but they’re never resigned to giving up. Riding massive, anthemic power chords, a dramatically quiet bridge, and a heroic guitar solo, the band cheer their girl on as if she was at bat for the Minnesota Twins (the band’s hometown team), swinging and missing only to hit a home run when she finally connects. “Spinners” is a reminder that The Hold Steady are great at sending dispatches from the gutter, but more than that, it’s a sign that they’re ready to discover what happens when you leave that life behind.
The Hold Steady will bring the Nights Go On Forever tour to Seattle on July 18th when they stop at the Neptune Theatre. Get more info and tickets to that all-ages show here, keep up with the band on their website and Facebook, and watch the Dustin Grella-directed animated clip for “Spinners” below.