The Hold Steady mixes religion, AC/DC-like rifts

Craig Finn takes a stroll through the church with ‘Separation Sunday’

Keri Carlson

To be born again means to erase your past.

Accept Jesus as your savior and, regardless of former sins, you certainly won’t be “left behind.”

Craig Finn, perhaps sensing a rising fundamentalist trend, has latched onto this idea on The Hold Steady’s second album, “Separation Sunday.”

The album does not so much revolve around evangelism, but rather the vague notion of looking to religion once your life has strayed too far off the tracks.

Since the days of his former Minneapolis band, Lifter Puller, Finn’s songs have always concentrated on characters obsessed with the nightlife. The Hold Steady might have left behind the jagged postpunk edge that was Lifter Puller’s style in favor of bar-band stomp. But Finn’s writing continues to be full of drugs, parties and disillusioned children.

It’s no wonder Finn’s characters want – or need – to be born again.

“Youth services always finds a way to get their bloody cross into your druggy little messed up teenage life,” Finn sings on “Multitude of Casualties.”

As an album, “Separation Sunday” is full of biblical and religious references such as Cain and Abel, Jesus tattoos and crucifixions.

Finn’s lyrics bring his usual amount of wit and poetics into each of the disc’s song – turning hoodrats into muses.

On his best line, Finn cracks, “The nurses making jokes about the ER being like an after bar.”

The rest of the band backs up Finn’s lyrics with cheesy AC/DC guitar riffs and retro keyboards.

While Finn might have his characters searching for the light, by no means is “Separation Sunday” an answer. For Finn’s characters, church is just another hopeful cure for a bad hangover.