Album: American Slang
Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
Release Date: June 15 (US)
Hear the whole album at NPR's First Listen
"Look what you've started," Brian Fallon calls out over the pounding drums and kerrrrraang of guitars in the opening moments of his band's new album. "I seem to be coming out of my skin."
That song, the galloping title track from The Gaslight Anthem's American Slang, would lead you to believe otherwise: Brian Fallon sounds like a man in command of his voice, less likely to fall apart at the seams than to bind himself up in an armor stitched together from the best parts of his heroes. In this album, as with the previous release (2008's excellent The '59 Sound), there's enough of a punk energy to validate the sleeves of tattoos. One of the band's godfathers, Joe Strummer, can be heard from time to time; Strummer's finest eulogy may have been the band's "I'da Called You Woody, Joe." However, the whiff of the class of '77 fades after a few listens, revealing the classic rock heart beating at the core of this band. Previous tracks made mention of Tom Petty, Otis Redding, and Bob Seger, and you get the impression that those artists do share shelf space with Give 'Em Enough Rope and Singles Going Steady. One suspects Live Bullets probably gets as much play as either of those punk classics.
It's no surprise that The Gaslight Anthem is a member of the ranks waving Bruce Springsteen's denim E Street flag; that they're from his neck of the woods is icing on the cake (The Gaslight Anthem hails from New Brunswick, NJ.) But while bands like The Hold Steady seem to stand on the bridge between The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle and Born to Run, Drive-By Truckers have an ear for the personal and political commentary of albums like Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The National embraces the moody, darkly romantic of Springsteen's legacy, The Gaslight Anthem's newest release plays like the full-on rave-ups on The River in the best way possible. If you wondered about Bruuuuuuce's legacy, you can stop wondering.
The verdict and videos after the jump.
"The '59 Sound" (with Bruce Springsteen)
Thirty years ago, Springsteen wrote of how "[he] got Mary pregnant... and for [his] nineteenth birthday he got a union card and a wedding coat." Did Mary's little boy grow up to become the hero of Fallon's New Jersey narratives? Could "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" have been the abandoned offspring of the man with the hungry heart? One listen to this record, with its callbacks to the roots of rock and roll even as Fallon confidently sings in terms of a contemporary "you and I," and it's not much of a stretch.
"Backstreets" (Springsteen cover)
American Slang, with a little luck, will be the record that "breaks" The Gaslight Anthem beyond the Alternative Press circuit, and that seems fitting. It's not really a leap forward in style or content from The '59 Sound, which isn't a condemnation- it's a wee bit smoother at times (though not "slick"), but it sounds like it's definitely drawn from the same well. Like its predecessor, it's going to sound fantastic blasting out of car stereos with the windows down, and that's an accomplishment in itself. American Slang is the sort of record that is made for summer, and God bless The Gaslight Anthem for not being ashamed to make such a thing.
"American Slang" (acoustic)
Album: American Slang