The Hold Steady's debut was one of the best indie-rock records of 2004, a left-field barnburner packed with rants about busted romance, a beloved jukebox and "war goin' down in the Middle Western states." Like its predecessor, Separation Sunday is at once surreal and gloriously sweaty, as Craig Finn rails like a man who's seen too many late nights and too much bad TV, while his band plunders a seemingly endless supply of secondhand riffs. Finn is a cracked-voiced storyteller who mixes literary gravitas and snarky yuks, wrapping a tale of drug-fueled abandon in biblical imagery on "Cattle and the Creeping Things" and referencing both Lionel Richie and Bruce Springsteen on "Charlemagne in Sweatpants." His wordy narratives get hazy at times, but Sunday succeeds as a whirlwind tour through an overstuffed brain.
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