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Holding Steady with DFW

The Hold Steady--my favorite band and the subject of a great post here by Eric Bugyis--just came out with a new album called Teeth Dreams. It offers all the pleasures fans have come to expect from the best bar band in America: smart lyrics, rocking music, and an epic, 9-minute song to cap things off. It also offers an example of one great writer, the band's Craig Finn, responding to another: David Foster Wallace.

In several interviews, Finn has talked about how his reading of Infinite Jest--twice, no less!--while working on the album helped shape its particular vision of "American sadness":

American sadness is, yes, something I got from David Foster Wallace, about this realization that there’s a void inside of us that can’t be filled, and it especially can’t be filled with consumer goods. The song “On With the Business,” where I’m directly referring to “American sadness,” is about consumerism and the way people screw each other over — and certainly the characters in that song do — to get more stuff, and the idea that it might not actually help.

The album is available to listen to on Spotify, but it's absolutely worth purchasing in full.

About the Author

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY. His book on poetry and theology in the modernist period is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.



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I'm an old fogey, unfamiliar with Hold Steady. I stick with the old firms: Dylan, Simon & Waits; Cohen, Mitchell & Young. They've all plumbed the depths of (North) American sadness. You can't beat Cohen's "Everybody Knows."

Yeah, they're world-weary, but they haven't given up hope. How about Waits' "You Can Never Hold Back Spring"? -- a great Easter tune.

I like this band. And I mean the band. If they ditched Craig Finn and his lyrics (or at least just  turned up the damn guitars to cover him a bit more), I'd actually want to listen to them. 

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