Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Hold Steady, "Sequestered in Memphis" (#2)

"Sequestered in Memphis"
(Craig Finn)
The Hold Steady
Stay Positive

Enough critical ink has been spilled about how The Hold Steady are the rightful heirs to Bruce Springsteen's working-man throne but how they twist his songs about losers and redemption into something truly horrifying. You don't need me to add to that.

But "Sequestered in Memphis" isn't a metaphorical title. It's not about being grilled by some cut-rate magazine and not being able to get away (even though Craig Finn says "I'm getting pretty sick of this interview"). No, the song is achingly literal: Finn slept with this girl, see, and she turned up in dead, and now the police want to know every last detail--which he, of course, cannot provide.

And yet somehow the cocaine-high music takes that story and turns it into something beautiful. "Yeah, sure, I'll tell my story again," he sings, and even though the cops have obviously asked him to do that so they can check for discrepancies, it turns into an act of self-assertion. And he even redeems the girl: "In the barlight she looked all right / In the daylight she looked desperate / That's all right, I was desperate too." They weren't making love, but maybe it was something nice if not redemptive.

But mostly you'll just want to sing along.

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