The Gaslight Anthem – [Album]

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What is it about the dark horse that makes people actively watch a race and quietly hope it wins? People can deny that they do it all they want, or lie and say they saw it coming all along, but maybe it's just symptomatic of the human condition to pray that the underdog will have his day because, somehow, it might mean that the guy clinging for dear life to the bottom wrung of every ladder can power out, climb to the top and stand tall against the odds.

In 2008, the underdog was most definitely The Gaslight Anthem, but not really for any other reason than the fact that they weren't coming out of a notoriously high-exposure area (New Jersey is not and is unlikely to ever be another New York or Los Angeles) and they were making very solid rock that totally ignored popular trends. Their sophomore album (first for SideOneDummy), The '59 Sound, beat the odds anyway and ended up catching with audiences – it was certified Silver, which was still a big deal given that there was exactly no expectation – appearing on several annual Best-Of lists, and just generally capturing tremendous amounts of attention and imagination. In retrospect, it was all a whole lot more than the band expected too – and that shows on  American Slang, The Gaslight Anthem's much-anticipated follow-up to The '59 Sound.

As “American Slang” blasts out of the gate to open the album, one can almost hear the band thanking fans for the attention and the opportunity between the staggering drums and brick-solid guitars, and when singer Brian Fallon belts his first line, “Look what you started,” he could just as easily be promising that the band plans on living up to every expectation their fans might have.

The single greatest, most noticeable change in The Gaslight Anthem on American Slang is the band's overall demeanor. While there is an obvious similarity between the sound of The '59 Sound and American Slang, where stray sparks of nervous energy radiated from the songs on The '59 Sound, American Slang is more streamlined and a whole lot more confident. Here, Fallon sounds more ambitious than nervous which does wonders for songs like “Stay Lucky” (when his voice cracks in the final stanzas of the song, listeners will feel it like they did on '59 Sound, but it's anthemic enough here to make them sing along rather than just feel warm inside), “The Diamond Church Street Choir” (which is a great stab of uniquely “Jersey” black-and-blue-eyed soul), the hard luck remembrance of “Boxer” and the dry-eyed sentimentality of “Old Haunts” – here, they're bigger and ready to show it. In each of those cases particularly, The Gaslight Anthem (as a unit – not one specific member or another) punches hard and always follows through, but there is also a special moment in each that makes sure no audience member is left hanging; guitarist Alex Rosamilia hits on a succession of inspired moments each time he alters his approach (stringy and tense minor-key pop on “The Diamond Church Street Choir,” a tremolo twang that borders on vintage surf rock in “The Queen Of Lower Chelsea,”  a set of dense and hooky guitar chords reminiscent of Elvis Costello in “The Spirit Of Jazz”) and is further bolstered by Alex Levine's bass (which punctuates every key moment without fail) and the solid, no heroics drumming of Ben Horowilz.

Through each of American Slang's ten songs, the band never falters or fails to deliver on what they've started here, and what listeners end up with on American Slang as a whole is the sort of follow-up that no fan could have reasonably expected, but everyone hoped for. American Slang is the sort of record that upholds the sounds and songwriting that fans gravitated toward initially, but also further expands and refines them and takes them up a notch. Simply said, The '59 Sound gave The Gaslight Anthem a footing, but the band is poised to make a huge and indelible impression with American Slang.



The Gaslight Anthem – “American Slang” – American Slang

The Gaslight Anthem – “Boxer” – American Slang

Further Reading:

Ground Control's interview with Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia 06-03-10


American Slang
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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