Lifter Puller: Fiestas and Fiascos

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

Friday, October 3, New York: Fiestas and Fiascos, like the other handful of Lifter Puller albums, tells anecdotes of a drug-addled nighttime scene in a nameless city with reappearing characters and locations. Katrina or K, Juanita, Nightclub Dwight, and the nightclub the Nice Nice. Songs about doing drugs and drinking hard and scoring drugs and waking up on lawns, all layered in with exquisite detail (most impressive as it’s in a fictional setting) and hard-scrabbled desperation. While the album doesn’t follow a strict narrative (it’s not quite a rock musical) but it does build to a conclusion.

The first thing one notices about this album is how incredible Craig Finn’s lyrics are— the scenes he paints in a line or two, the clever rhymes that drive them. “Do you like lighting fires? / I’ve been looking for a fire-lighter for hire. / Do you like lighting fires?” But it’s not just the lyrics. Lifter Puller is just fucking great rock and roll. “Bruised hips from doing the bump too much. / Blue lips from slipping the tongue too much.” Half-sung, half-spoken vocals, hot fast drums, sexy organs and keys. The genetic codes on display here pop up again in The Hold Steady, but this is a whole separate species. A homo superior of rock music.

There was a specific temporal slice of my life to which this album was the soundtrack— being in my early twenties in Los Angeles. The sun would go down, this album would come on, and you wuold drive around feeling dangerous and itching for the start of the night. I never lived the Nice, Nice life (“Dry ice and knifefights on every other Wednesday night”) nor the 90s rave scene that inspired these songs, but hell, my buddy Jed and I would go in for a dirty martini-soaked Koreatown karaoke club tour and we’d warm up the pipes screaming about Nightclub Dwight on the way.

The final thing to say about this album is how it ends: There are two songs that complete the record (notably, Lifter Puller’s last studio record before pulling up stakes and evolving into The Holy Steady). “Lifter Puller Vs. The End of The Evening” describes the scene spiraling out of control and spinning downward. You’d think it would be the perfect conclusion, title and all. But no. There is “The Flex and the Buff Result”, which describes in exquisite detail the “eye-patch guy” (“he was dripping wet with gin fizz / he was half dead and dynamite / he had needle-marked arms like the front man for some grunge band / he cooled himself off with a Japanese hand fan…”) and his orders… (and this is the point at which the album rocks the hardest) “I want Nightclub Dwight dead in his grave I want the Nice Nice up in blazes. / I want Nightclub Dwight dead in his grave I want the Nice Nice up in blazes”. It’s SO FUCKING GOOD.

Lifter Puller, I’ll always love you. Bring on the bed spins, bring on the mini-thins.

Buy this album and listen to it driving around at night instead of doing a bunch of drugs.

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