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The Gaslight Anthem – [Album]

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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Everyone who has been following Gaslight Anthem over the last few years has been waiting for the band to make Handwritten. Fans knew they had it in them, they just had to wait for the band to realize it too; after getting their shit together in the underground (the band's XOXO album, Sink Or Swim, was well met, in spite of having no attention from big-name publications), The '59 Sound introduced Gaslight Anthem to a large audience as the working class group from suburbia armed to the teeth with great guitar-driven songs, fine pop vocal hooks and a lyrical sense which seemed to be universally accessible because it was romantic, bombastic, rocky and sweet – all at the same time. The '59 Sound recalled memories of The Replacements and Bruce Springsteen as they were when they were just getting started, and caused those who heard it to remember the excitement they felt back then, when it was the newest thing. That breakthrough was great, but the band topped it with American Slang in 2010 and proved they could step up and do better (as good as that first break was), rock harder, sing sweeter and write a record that every fan could agree is essential listening from top to bottom.

The sorts of moves that Gaslight Anthem had made to date were great, of course, but fans knew what they were seeing – they were watching history repeat. Whether by accident or design, Gaslight Anthem's growth mimicked the growth and development of The Replacements; how that band had gone from good to better to great, record-by-record. No one wanted to say it out loud because they didn't want to jinx it, but fans kept hoping they'd get another great big and legendary little rock band and now, with Handwritten, they've gotten their wish; after reaching critical mass in the underground (just like The 'Mats had done between Stink, Hootenanny and Let It Be), Gaslight Anthem has emerged in the finest imaginable form with Hardwritten – their major label debut, their moment, their Tim.

From the moment “45” unloads to open the album, fans will know exactly what they're hearing as guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and drummer Benny Horowitz lock into a perfect wall of sound behind singer Brian Fallon – they're hearing the presence of timeless rock n' roll grandeur reassert itself in the mainstream pop paradigm for the first time in years, and listeners will realize how much they missed it right then. In this beginning, the band holds audiences entranced immediately; the sounds of great, ragged rock are recognizable right away as the guitars and bass straddle the lines between heartfelt and raucous, and the drums drive the whole thing straight into the pleasure center of the brain. That starts the love affair right there, but listeners will find they really feel it and will know there's no going back when Brian Fallon steps to the mic an laments, “I can't move on and I can't stay the same” before he gets every listener singing along with “There you go – turn the key and engine over/ Let her go – let somebody else lay at her feet.”

That moment is perfect, but it is not the kind which comes readymade, the band had to take a few albums to build to it. That's why the fact that it comes now is so gratifying; after three records and a couple of EPs, Gaslight Anthem is able to start Handwritten with a show-stopper as they do but, even better, it isn't even the greatest song on the album; this show-stopper is only the beginning.

Listeners will sit wide-eyed as a procession of sure hits including the title track, “Here Comes My Man,” “Too Much Blood” “Biloxi Parish” and “Mulholland Drive” (which is my choice for the single best song Gaslight Anthem has written to date) play their way through and prove the heights Gaslight Anthem is capable of reaching. The performances are rock solid and producer Brendan O'Brien's treatment of them puts added focus and attention on the dichotomy of fantastic (and occasionally gut-rending) melody as well as instrumentation which is hard but doesn't seem treated or inflated by post-production – it just feels both natural and powerful. It's awesome, and even the most dogged of detractors will find themselves unable to find any fault with a single, solitary microtone in this run-time; it is Gaslight Anthem's best album and, because it showcases nothing but the logical extension of their best work, it is also their first truly classic album and an achievement which deserves recognition.

Artist:

www.thegaslightanthem.com/
www.myspace.com/thegaslightanthem
www.facebook.com/thegaslightanthem
www.twitter.com/gaslightanthem

Download:

The Gaslight Anthem – “45” – Handwritten

Album:

Handwritten will be released on July 24, 2012. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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The Gaslight Anthem – [Album]

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Once every decade or so, a band appears seemingly from nowhere that mixes equal amounts of pop, punk and rock so perfectly – they hit that serene balance so evenly that it doesn’t fit easily under any of the aforementioned tags – that it compels the loudest upholders of each to rush in and try to claim the group as their own. This decade, it’s a band that walks out of the wilds of New Jersey with a quiver full of indie pop arrows and a glumly resigned attitude and hits listeners right in the heart with the very first shot.

That’s how you know The Gaslight Anthem has arrived.

From the opening blast of “Great Expectations,” the band lays it all – including singer/guitarist Brian Fallon’s heart – on the line in hopes that listeners will take them as they are. Right from the beginning of that song, the guitars explode out of the mix followed by Benny Horowitz’ scathing drums to lay down cover fire for Fallon’s sweetly heartbroken, Springsteen-by-way-of-Minnesota sentimentality that instantly conjures images of a kid walking alone along the shore after a bad break-up and wondering what it all means. It’s a sadly beautiful moment that Fallon punctuates perfectly with a resigned sneer (“Everybody leaves so why wouldn’t you?”) that anyone listening who has ever been on the losing end of a failed relationship can relate to. It’s the kind of moment that most bands work their whole careers for, but Gaslight Anthem comes to it so easily and honestly that it’s almost unnerving.

From there, no matter where the singer goes – be it to catch a movie (“Film Noir,” “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” or maybe Casablanca in “Here’s Looking At You Kid”), down the Hudson (“Meet Me By The River’s Edge”) or the boardwalk (“The Patient Ferris Wheel”) – the story and heartache remain the same and there’s no deterring the pain. At every turn too, Fallon’s band mates try to break him out of his mood by pushing their envelope for speed to try and get some thrills (the title track, “High Lonesome,” “The Backseat”) but, more often than not, resign themselves to being the consoling shoulder for the singer to either lean or cry on as the muse moves him. The band and singer do have a sort of emotional symbiosis at work here that listeners find themselves immersed in by accident but, when that realization does take hold, they don’t want to escape it; they happily live and die with Fallon as he tries to pick up the pieces only to discover that some are lost forever and he discovers that he’ll never be complete again. The bittersweet tone of the singer’s voice will make them smile though, as the upward-looking timbres in his vocal reassure listeners that everyone will get out alive.

Maybe such dramatic language doesn’t seem like it fits in a review of a forty-one-minute record, but it is the sort of mindset that anyone listening to The ‘59 Sound adopts as they listen. This album successfully revives a basic instinct in anyone that’s ever had their heart broken that, eventually the good guys will win. The Gaslight Anthem stands as that band that listeners want to see beat the odds and take over the world because, in some strange, ‘by association’ way, they will have too; the songs here are instantly that cathartic and lovable.

One has to wonder – is this how people felt about The Replacements in 1983? Maybe….

Artist:

The Gaslight Anthem homepage
The Gaslight Anthem myspace

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