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.