Friday Tunes: Holding Steady with Lifter Puller

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Lifter Puller was probably the biggest band discovery that I made post-college. In 1998, I won a pair of tickets to see LP play at the 400 Bar. Seeing them live hooked me. I bought their albums from the guitarist after their set ( I think I had to borrow the cash from Erin in order to do it), and I listened to them constantly for about 2 or 3 years.

They released their last album, Fiestas + Fiascos, in 2000 and broke up shortly thereafter. A heart-breaking moment.

What’s the appeal?

The music is an odd assortment of punk and alt/art rock styles that I couldn’t ever quite nail down or get completely on board with. But it served effectively as an exotic backdrop for what really hooked me: The lyrics and vocals.

Craig Finn is a master lyricist and possesses a unique and fascinating vocal style.

The lyrics tell wild stories about characters who inhabit the dark side of the Twin Cities nightlift. I equate them most closely with early William Gibson in terms of grittiness, use of brand names and locations, and efficiency of language. Vivid imagery evoked with few words.

But the lyrics would be a tangled mess without the staccato, marble-mouthed delivery. It’s not quite singing, not quite rapping. It’s a stutter-stepping, straining style of recital that reminds you of waking up with a sore voice after a night spent smoking, drinking, and crawling between bars.

Lifter Puller is gone now. But you can get nearly all of their material via the Amazon MP3 store.

But, oh yeah, half of LP lives on in the equally awesome band operating under the moniker of The Hold Steady.