Song Where the Streets Have No Name
posted by September 3 at 12:15 PMon
Why did I wait so long to look up the lyrics to “Banging Camp” by the Hold Steady? For months now, ever since I got back into that album, into it way deeper than I ever got the first time around, I’ve been getting kind of giddy every time it comes to the bridge. Specifically the part where Craig Finn sings/shouts, “And he said, ‘Hi! I like to party on the—” and that was as far as I could ever sing along, because the end of the line always got lost in Finn’s beery spittle before I could make it out on the way to, “—and I can’t stand it when the banging stops.”
For some reason, in my under-researched mythologizing of the Hold Steady and the midwest, I figured Finn was saying the name of some Twin Cities neighborhood or street or plaza—the last word kind of sounded like “Platz,” the German for place or plaza or square, and so I guessed there was maybe a German-settled neighborhood in Minneapolis/St. Paul with some square that had gotten a little too druggy. (The first part of the word sounded like “Plotter” or “Bahner” or “Platter,” the last of which apparently means to iron or press flat in German—not a likely name for a neighborhood, even for a city that’s flat all over.)
Anyway, last night, the urge to know that lyric, to sing along properly, finally drove me to spend the 30 seconds it would take to look the damn thing up (whilst listening to the recording, even). It’s “problem blocks.” “I like to party on the problem blocks.” Which, as babelfish would have it, translates to “Problemblöcke” in German. Whatever—blöcke, platz, it’s a great moment in the song, this scene of some guy walking up drunk to some girl at a party and boasting, in Finn’s outsized slur, about partying and hangovers, while the rising guitar leads and horns and headache-foreshadowing kick drum all build towards a classic Hold Steady crescendo. And now I know the words.