Album Review: American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem
Very Good, Based on 11 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 80 Based on rating 8/10
It's fair to say that The Gaslight Anthem are an Everyman type of band. Their fanbase ranges from ageing punks in the Midwest to anyone who has listened to Xfm for more than 20 minutes in the last month. Even their name conjures up images of soft rock being played over a crackling AM radio. They're punk rock made for driving with the top down, which is as bizarre a notion as it sounds.
When the Hold Steady sing, “Half the crowd is calling out for ‘Born to Run’ / The other half is calling out for ‘Born to Lose’”, they’re describing a scene of conflict, one in which two camps with competing ideals show little interest in finding a middle ground between Springsteen and Social Distortion. It’s probably a line the Hold Steady, who know a thing or two about taking anthemic rock into indie clubs, have toed more successfully than most. A growing crop of bands, though, take spiritual guidance from heartland rockers like Springsteen, even if they leave some of the sound behind in favor of their own punk energy and melodicism inspired by bands like the Clash or Thin Lizzy.
With their hearts on their sleeves and their feet planted firmly in the garden state, the Gaslight Anthem’s third album, American Slang, plays out like an offering to Springsteen, the patron saint of heartland rock. The feeling on this album is considerably more relaxed. All of the punk rock tension and urgency have been replaced by a more patient and heartfelt mood.
Gaslight Anthem's hot follow-up to their '59 Sound breakthrough should help them shed some of those Springsteen comparisons that have shadowed them, though that probably wasn't songwriter Brian Fallon's objective. And make no mistake - that Jersey (GA's home state) vibe still lurks in the corners. It's just that his writing style is more distinctive here.
These New Brunswick, N.J., boys have a big jones for Springsteen, which explains why American Slang‘s filled with streetlights and freight trains and American girls. But they reclaim the Boss’ working-class desperation for punks. With shouted-till-we’re-hoarse vocals, taut guitars, and a grizzled demeanor that suggests too many night shifts, they’ve got Garden State attitude down.
All-American foursome leaves sentimentality at the door These Jersey boys earned an official Bruce Badge last year when Springsteen joined them onstage at a handful of European festivals, and if you achieve such a thing, it’s probably best to not go jerking around with your formula. True to form, this brisk, exhaust-scented third album makes an ambitious return to the Boss’ scenic Friday night carnival for a familiar but still-mighty wallop of muscular, crying riffs and good old-fashioned restlessness. “Stay Lucky” and “Bring It On” are cut straight from the band’s oil-stained cloth, but they nail the occasional detours as well, especially the left-field finger-snapper “The Diamond Street Church Choir.
Where so many young rock bands struggle to liberate themselves from the tyranny of influence, the Gaslight Anthem simply embrace it. Every album, every song, every lyric makes some overt musical or lyrical reference to the New Jersey greasers' working-class heroes-- Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, Tom Petty. And while there ain't a lick of jazz in their music, the Gaslight Anthem give their songs names like "The Spirit of Jazz" and "Miles Davis & the Cool" and "The '59 Sound" in an attempt to recapture some bygone, ineffable standard of hipness that can only be gleaned by staring at old Blue Note album covers.
The Gaslight Anthem has always understood that rock music is for the kids. The band’s songwriting captures some of the most essential and emotionally swollen moments of youth: first time heartbreak, good-hearted Saturday-night mischief, and that oh-so-adolescent itch to escape whatever town one calls home. It’s the kind of stuff Cameron Crowe movies and Bruce Springsteen songs are made of.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
For many people, [b]The Gaslight Anthem[/b] were a revelation last summer. Since [b]‘The ’59 Sound’[/b] edged its way out of the bedrooms of the faithful and into wider consciousness – thanks in no small part to the patronage of [b]Bruce Springsteen[/b] – they’ve been on something of a victory lap, playing the same songs tour after tour as the venues expand appropriately. That album was a happy mongrel, stitched together using offcuts from frontman Brian Fallon’s record collection bound up with his ineffable songwriting skills.
Last year, Amy Winehouse was gifted her own boutique record label. That's right. Someone within the music industry saw those pap shots of her staggering around Camden Town at 4am, crying, covered in blood, with her wig on backwards and thought: "That's CEO material right there – she certainly seems like the kind of responsible young women I'd trust to run a business." There was a burst of publicity for her first signing – her goddaughter – but not much in the way of sales.
Third album from Springsteen-influenced New Jersey (former) punks. Andrzej Lukowski 2010 New Jersey quartet The Gaslight Anthem would be the first to admit that they share more than a home state with Bruce Springsteen. However, there’s nothing wrong with being heavily influenced by another artist so long as you still have something of your own to bring to the table, and on 2008’s superb breakthrough The ’59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem did indeed bring something.