The Gaslight Anthem, 'Handwritten'

The Jersey boys' latest tribute to fallen youth leaves it all on the field.

Dec. 26, 2008, I'm lying in bed at my parent's house after being very sick the Christmas night before. By the afternoon, I start to feel better so I decide to cash in credit and buy some music. While looking through a list of albums, one stood out. Four guys were staring into the lens in leather jackets. It had pure red-blooded rock’n’roll all over it. And I bought it based on the cover alone.

By the time I finished listening to The '59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem straight through, I was astounded. Listen, I know what you are thinking but I honestly had never been so moved by an album in one listen. It really is inexplicable. Believe me, I’ve tried to make people understand.

The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

My first thought as the last note vibrated out into the ether was, "I'll never be able to listen to this for the first time ever again." And now the only album I've listened to more may be Darkness on the Edge of Town by Springsteen. But I never saw the influence the Boss had on TGA till later. I kept telling people it was The Clash meets West Side Story exploding in The Replacements’ garage.
That was almost four years ago.

Since then we've had American Slang, a great album, which simply suffered from comparison to the one that hooked us all. Last year we were graced with Brian Fallon's wonderful side project, The Horrible Crowes' Elsie

But we've been waiting. Not so much for a repeat of The '59 Sound as much as a repeat of all that raw emotion and energy. All the intensity and wonder. All the youth crashing into the retaining wall of adulthood. All those lines sung in a way that makes our souls shiver.

And we have it with the release of Handwritten. On their fourth album, Brian Fallon and the guys from The Gaslight Anthem have their first major record deal and very possibly the Rock album of the year. And I just keep playing it over and over again.

In a musical landscape full of quirky and ironic tunes, The Gaslight Anthem serves up gritty gut-level, heart-on-your-sleeve music.

Each of the eleven songs are full to breaking of all that makes rock’n’roll so great—that relentless go for broke explosion of emotion in the midst of daily life. In the liner notes, Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy) writes, “Anyone who has ever been frustrated by anything - a girl, a boy, a job, a self (especially that)—can listen to this music and feel understood.” This is rock’n’roll for the everyman. Every woman. And Fallon reminds us in “Mae” - We work our fingers down to dust/While we wait for Kingdom Come/With the radio on...

In a musical landscape full of quirky and ironic tunes, The Gaslight Anthem serves up gritty gut-level, heart-on-your-sleeve music. Handwritten is relentlessly sincere. From the opening rollicking track, "45," to the closing beauty, "National Anthem," this is a soul wide-open album. (But make sure you spend the extra few dollars for the Deluxe Version... “Blue Dahlia” will make you wonder why it’s a bonus track.)

And all the subjects we wrestle with in the ditches and dining rooms of our life are present in these songs - death, lost love, should-have-beens, hopes, dreams, and the questions of faith. The Gaslight Anthem serves them up as though all of this really matters. There are no shadows of shoe-gazing “whatevers” in Fallon’s lyrics. And you'll want to sing along as loud as you can to each one. Over and over again.

5 Comments

84,032

Jon Rohlf reviewed…

The '59 Sound was the one that hooked us all, except those of us hooked by the first chords of Sink or Swim.

84,032

Anonymous reviewed…

Man, Im so glad that the people at my favorite magazine listen to my favorite band.

84,032

Anonymous reviewed…

Nice write up. I can't be very objective, as this is my favorite band ever.

You mention the absolute sincerity of The Gaslight Anthem. What's interesting is that many music critics actually come down hard on albums that are not trying to be ironic or quirky. The negative reviews I've seen (there are only a couple) don't like how sincere frontman Brian Fallon is. But they did the same thing to Brandon Flowers' solo record.

Just a thought.

84,032

Steve Alter reviewed…

Really nice review. I also don't understand the reviews basically trashing them for who they are. And I really hate the ones that pull apart the lyrics and deem them cliched without mentioning the music and the band's playing behind them. With all due repsect to Mr. Fallon, this is a BAND, and their music transcends the sum of its parts.

Ben Tichenor

2

Ben Tichenor reviewed…

glad you mentioned Blue Dahlia, that is a great track! i love listening to it right after National Anthem

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