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The Hold Steady 

Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant)

Wednesday, Oct 11 2006
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Craig Finn's ramblings about religious girls having sex with soccer players, chums passing beer bottles under bridges, and house parties long forgotten have always charmed, but that magic wears off on his latest record with the Hold Steady. While previous releases rocked like jug-bitten partygoers falling off a balcony, the music gets slower and the subject matter a bit more somber on Boys and Girls in America (the title is taken from the Jack Kerouac line, "Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.") Instead of holding drunkards spellbound with his brutally witty lyrics and slobbery voice, Finn now drowns his tales in sticky sentiment and wallowing romanticism; Ballads such as "First Night" and "Citrus" are just plain drippy. (Another problem area: The song "Chillout Tent" features Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and Elizabeth Elmore of the Reputation singing background vocals. However, their voices are poorly mixed into the tune and sound like they were recorded in a totally different studio in another country, making for a messy catastrophe of a song.) The Hold Steady's brainy bar rock sound has embarrassingly devolved into full-on, piano-added-for-dramatic-effect arena rock, like Springsteen and the E Street Band at its most cornball. — Adam Bregman

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Adam Bregman

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