Dec 192012

The latest album by The Gaslight Anthem is a return to the glory of Sink or Swim and The ’59 Sound, which is a relief.

American Slang, the band’s 2010 release, was a good album, but it just didn’t capture the energy and passion that Brian Fallon & Co. exude so well on their most memorable tracks. There was no “We Came to Dance” or “Great Expectations.”

American Slang felt like a stab at mainstream acceptance. Handwritten feels like a defiant middle finger to the establishment and an acknowledgement to longtime fans that the boys won’t be compromising from here on out.

Handwritten kicks off fast with the stunning “45,” a quintessential Gaslight anthem, ahem, about conflicted angst and the eternal struggle to grow.

And much like Sink or Swim, the disc just keeps chugging, each track launching forth from the last, fueled by an urgent drumbeat and staccato blasts of guitar. The title track, “Handwritten,” is a definite keeper. “Here Comes My Man” and “Mulholland Drive” are slower-paced story songs that would fit perfectly with the best of The Horrible Crowes, Fallon’s side project.

The standout tracks, for me, are “Too Much Blood,” a deeply confessional take on artistic aspiration, and “Desire,” a worthy companion to the aforementioned “Great Expectations” on any best-of playlist.

Here’s the deal – The Gaslight Anthem has its detractors, sure, and the comparisons to Bruce Springsteen are as inevitable as the band’s fixation on girls, cars and a blue-collar aesthetic.

But I will take Gaslight all day, every day, over lukewarm wannabes like The Killers who simply ape the storytelling technique of a Springsteen or a Bob Dylan but never once sound like they’ve lived, much less believe, the words that are raging from their mouths.

There’s something about this band that just grabs me. It’s like the first time I heard The Old 97s. Some bands you just love from the first song on. Needless to say, for me this is Essential Listening.

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
The Gaslight Anthem – Mulholland Drive
The Gaslight Anthem – Desire

The Gaslight Anthem’s Official Site, The Gaslight Anthem on Facebook, The Gaslight Anthem on Spotify, Buy Handwritten

John Allman

In 1975, my parents made a fateful decision, the first of many, that set me upon my chosen path. They took me with them to see "Jaws." In the bathroom, after the movie ended, my Dad said he heard a young voice saying over and over, "Smile you son of a bitch." He opened the stall door to find his 5-year-old son gleefully blasting the bowl with urine the way Roy Scheider blew up the air tank in the shark's mouth. Two years later, they took me with them to see the King, Elvis Presley, mere months before his unfortunate death. Elvis wasn't on his A game as he stumbled through a two-night, sold-out stand at the old Charlotte Colosseum. But we had floor seats, row 22, and my mother was shrieking like a schoolgirl. Women everywhere in the arena were freaking out. I just remember thinking, why is the big man in the jumpsuit cussing so much on stage? That's right - Jaws and Fat Elvis, my earliest memories of film and music, two defining moments in my young life. Today, thankfully, I have evolved from those humble beginnings to have an appreciation for most cinematic and musical genres. But my heart remains rooted in those formative years. I still love horror more than any other type of movie, and I choose to remember Elvis from his Sun Records days, long before the white jumpsuit, when he was full of swagger and fire, helping build a label defined by the all-time greats.


  1. I agree about the band and mostly about the album…it’s just the song Here comes my Man, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. And they are promoting the hell out of that song. I’m just trying to understand that part of it.

  2. I think Fallon tries a lot to be like the Killers, more so than like the Boss, which is neither good nor bad. It just means he wants to learn from a modern mainstream band. But me and this album do not get along and it’s because of the songwriting. It’s all shorthand–references like Howl or Here Comes My Man or Mullholland Drive and the same exact imagery as every other song in their catalog. They have used referential titles/lyrics and consistent imagery since the beginning, but 59 Sound still *grew* off of Sink or Swim–there was progress. This is their fourth album and their first major label album and they’re still doing the same exact thing but diluted and lazier and false? That radio, greaser, jersey gal shit is false. I can admire sticking to your roots, but Fallon settles for such trite shit sometimes.

  3. I dont get all the talk of this being a return to roots or like “SOS”. “SOS” was a punk album through and through with great lyrics and imagery and urgency. This is a straight up rock album, and nothing close to punk once you take off “45″. Fallon is trying so hard on the past two albums and is falling flat. He should not strive for success and fame and instead take time between albums and write the amazing songs he is capable of instead of churning out crap like this. Christ, This Charming Man was better than this.

  4. I love this album.

    We will just have to agree to disagree about the Old 97′s though…

  5. Bought this album a few days after the release. I had to listen it a few times to start really liking it. And the more I listen to it, the more I’m falling in love with every song. IT jsut has a great feeling. The music, the songwriting, Fallon’s voice… This alubm give me feelings, that is all I care about. And I really love feelings…

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