The Hold Steady, specifically lead singer, guitarist and lyricist Craig Finn, really love the city. No lead singer has crooned about an urban environment with more frequency and praise than the man from Minneapolis. If you don’t believe us, just listen to his band’s new record Thrashing Thru The Passion. He loves cities so much it only takes him 16 seconds to sing about them.
It seems that cities are coming up sooner on each Hold Steady LP. So we re-listened to all of their LPs. And we found out that we’re right.
Almost Killed Me (2004)
First Mention Of City: Track 2 “The Swish” mentions City Center in Minneapolis. Earlier in the song Finn sings about Circuit City. That’s not included because Circuit City is a chain store and has nothing to do with actual cities. It’s also closed. It was like Best Buy. Less yellow and blue, but pretty much the same as Best Buy.
It was a bloodsucking summer
I spent half the time trying to get paid from our savior
Swishing though the City Center
I did a couple favors for these guys who looked like Tusken Raiders
Separation Sunday (2005)
First Mention Of City: Track 2 “Cattle and the Creeping Things” mentions visiting a city. The album includes the best Hold Steady song about a particular city, “Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night.”
She’s got a cross around her neck that she ripped off from a schoolgirl in the subway on a visit to the city
She likes how it looks on her chest with three open buttons
She likes the part where one brother kills the other, she has to wonder if the world ever will recover
‘Cause Cain and Abel seem to still be causing trouble
Boys And Girls In America (2006)
First Mention Of City: Track 1 “Stuck Between Stations” mentions the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul at 2:27. Twin Cities. That’s what that means. And we’re counting it.
Yeah, these Twin City kisses
They sound like clicks and hisses
We all come down and drowned
In the Mississippi River
Stay Positive (2008)
First Mention Of City: Track 10 “Joke About Jamaica” mentions a child in the city. There are multiple mentions of cities like Memphis and St. Paul earlier in the record, but the word ‘city’ isn’t said until track 10. We’re not counting those mentions because it’s not Memphis City or St. Paul City.
Dancing days, houses of the holy
Hot child in the city in the middle of the prairie
Flirting with the boys with all her charms
Heaven Is Whenever (2010)
First Mention Of City: Track 1 “The Sweet Part of the City” only takes 1:15 to get to what the band really cares about.
The sweet part of the city
The part with the bars and restaurants
We used to meet underneath the marquees, we used to nod off in the matinees
She always claimed that she was from Tennessee, and now it seems to me
Teeth Dreams (2014)
First Mention Of City: Track 1 “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” has Finn singing the word ‘city’ earlier than any other record to date, only 19 seconds in, but it’s about the ‘Cityscape Skins,’ a fictional skinhead group. Finn and co. get to something that isn’t a fictional proper noun by the chorus, at second 57. It took under a minute to let you know the band loves urban environments, or at least hangs out in them a lot.
There was a side of this city I didn’t want you to see
There’s just these guys that I know, we go back pretty deep
And I hope this whole thing didn’t frighten you
There were times that it terrified me
I know what they said, I don’t know if it’s true
I hope this whole thing didn’t frighten you
Thrashing Thru The Passion (2019)
First Mention Of City: The newest album has our earliest official shout out to cities: 16 seconds. What’s even more impressive (?) is that the mention comes in the second line of the second verse. The Hold Steady does not fuck around with intros. There are more words than seconds by the time ‘city’ is uttered.
Also, Denver is a city. The name of the song is “Denver Haircut.” That should also count as a mention.
She said I’ll strap on the saddle
And I’m sorry but this city’s a cesspool
I’ve kissed and I’ve cackled with half of these jackals
Still couldn’t get any jet fuel