Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Revival
"Have you seen my heart?" asks Brian Fallon on the Gaslight Anthem's fourth album. "Have you seen how it bleeds?" Have we ever. There is no shortage of earnest anthemic rock in the 21st century, but no one wears their bleeding hearts on their sleeves quite like Fallon and his mates. Gaslight aren't regal like Coldplay or Arcade Fire; on their major-label debut they remain proudly provincial New Jersey punks, who sing about deep feelings with a sincerity that could make Bono blush.Handwritten is Gaslight's biggest-sounding, most straightforward album.
Review Summary: In the backseat, we're just trying to find some room to breathe.The opening of Handwritten's centrepiece, "Too Much Blood", turns back round to 2010's American Slang and punches it in the face for being so hell-bent on sounding cool. It needs next track "Howl" in its wake, to blow the cobwebs away, but the thing to acknowledge about the Gaslight Anthem in 2012 is that they appear to have learned the value of that trade-off. There is no sort of clamouring to turn every track here into an anthem on the same level of The '59 Sound's eponymous track, no rush to a self-gratifying chorus just for the sake of it.
Denim smeared with car grease. A tatty vinyl copy of Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 classic ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’. A tub of pomade and the buzz of a burly tattooist’s needle. You think you know New Jersey heartland punks The Gaslight Anthem, do you? Sure, you can still smell the engine oil and see the neon of a small-town liquor store flashing in the distance when you listen to ‘Handwritten’.
On “Here Comes My Man” – the third track of The Gaslight Anthem’s first album on Mercury Records – Brian Fallon’s heartfelt, gravelly voice sings the words “If I wanted to, I could start over again. ” And, for a moment, you might think that’s what he’s trying to do with the 2012 release of Handwritten. After the band’s 2010 release of American Slang, and Fallon’s side project work on The Horrible Crowes 2011 release Elsie – two albums where Fallon was clearly trying to vary his sound and progress musically – it seems as though all those departures (for better or worse) were worth it in the end because they’ve led to The Gaslight Anthem’s most consistent and accomplished album to date in Handwritten.
Bruce Springsteen backed these Jersey boys on guitar during an Asbury Park show last year, and it’s easy to understand why he’s a fan. As a kid, Gaslight singer Brian Fallon lived a few blocks away from E Street, and the band’s fourth album, Handwritten, wears its hardcore-punk-meets-rust-belt-rock sincerity like a bandanna tucked into its back pocket — with songs about rivers and long roads and burnout jobs and guys who never forget where they came from. But unlike other Boss revivalists who treat America like a mythological concept (see: the Killers’ Sam’s Town), the band’s not just riffing on the heartland.
Change is scary. Sure, change can be invigorating, a means to progression and achieving the next big thing. But in terms of music, changing something that’s already earned a band a cushy spot between Bruce Springsteen and the Bouncing Souls? Now that’s scary. Luckily for the boys in The Gaslight Anthem, they’re willing to take on that change slowly and gently for expectant fans who’ve been harboring high hopes for the Jersey group’s fourth full-length album, Handwritten.
In a promo video for the Gaslight Anthem’s new album, Handwritten, lead singer/songwriter Brian Fallon discusses the concept behind and genesis of the LP before offhandedly remarking that every band dreams of making that “one album”. That insatiable desire to make that perfect piece of popular culture that will endure for decades is what fueled Fallon and his bandmates during the writing and recording of Handwritten, particularly when he wasn’t sure if there were any more songs within him—let alone a masterpiece. Once the band wrote album opener “45”, Fallon explains, the doubt was banished and the Gaslight Anthem rekindled their creative hunger.
You don’t get bands like The Gaslight Anthem any more. Bands who follow in the great tradition of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Ramones by writing one great song and then re-writing it until they or everyone else gets bored of hearing the damned thing. This New Jersey four piece particularly relish in imitating the footsteps of their idols because their ‘59 Sound’ is basically The Boss minus his E Street Band.
The Gaslight Anthem's major label debut takes them further away from their independent "punk Springsteen" roots into Boss-sized would-be stadium rock with a nod to Celtic-influenced Brit rockers Big Country and the Alarm. The songs wear broken hearts on checked sleeves, with a "whoah-oh" or "hey-ey-ey" never far away. Opener 45, the stirring Biloxi Parish and the title track are instantly catchy; it's hard to hear them without imagining rows of arms punching the air.
Brian Fallon doesn't seem like the kind of guy who does a lot of texting. No LOLs or emoticons for him, no clever abbreviations. "Every word handwritten," he emphasizes on the Gaslight Anthem's fourth album, which is actually titled Handwritten. And no fancy electric lamps for Fallon: "We only write by the light of the moon." He's a defiantly old-school type-- he'd probably be a Luddite if not for electric guitars-- and the Gaslight Anthem get most of their moves from the 1950s and 1960s: girl groups, greasers, juvenile delinquents, rockabilly tough guys, and a certain gun-wielding super-producer.
I discovered The ’59 Sound in the summer of 2010, the same summer I discovered alcohol, drugs, and heartbreak. It was an emotional time for me, and The Gaslight Anthem provided the soundtrack. Tales of small-town love and lust, Brian Fallon’s lyrics make protagonists out of regular chicks and dudes. Glamorous, song-worthy tragedies befall these characters, and although my paltry tragedies of the summer of 2010 would have made one boring-ass song, The ‘59 Sound hit home for me.
The Gaslight Anthem have always been too easily described in three words: "punk rock Springsteen." But with every album the New Jersey rockers have slid closer to Bruce and further from punk. Their fourth album and major label debut continues to embrace classic rock fetishism, aiming for the rafters with grand, fist-pumping anthems and lighter-waving epics. Armed with shout-alongable meat-and-potato hooks, it reveals a band that's lost its grasp on nuance.
It's compulsory to mention the name Springsteen when talking about The Gaslight Anthem, right? If so then that's that, given how comparisons between The Boss and his fellow New Jersey natives' latest record Handwritten can generously be described as tenuous; I might as well talk about how I expect Tony Soprano to roll up mid-album. Those familiar with the band's oeuvre will find few surprises here, although if you're not familiar but were (for some reason) eagerly awaiting a new Goo Goo Dolls release then this will at least serve to tide you over. .
Hailing from New Jersey, and replete with manly yearning and stymied loves, there is something inevitable about how much former punks the Gaslight Anthem sound like Bruce Springsteen. Handwritten, their fourth album and major-label debut, goes one louder than their last rousing effort, 2010's American Slang, and one Broocer too. Springsteen's longtime producer Brendan O'Brien amps up their chunky rock songs to weapons-grade anthemics.
Hailing from what seems a Mecca of rock ‘n’ roll, New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem have paved the way in embodying their hometown’s notorious musical flavour with a refreshingly genuine feel. No over-production or dramatics here; the band thrive on honest, straight up music, and album number four - ‘Handwritten’ - has surpassed all expectations. Not quite a new Gaslight Anthem, more a rejuvenated form - the record sees the band perfectly crystalise their own sound while branching out tentatively in new directions.
New Jersey quartet continues to impress with their self-styled ‘soul punk’. Alistair Lawrence 2012 The times have certainly changed for The Gaslight Anthem. Four years and two silver-certified albums since their leap over the top in this country, they’ve established themselves with an evocative brand of wistful, blue-collar rock. Hearteningly for their old-school fans, they never seem to forget the rites of passage that brought them here.
Always seeming to be tinkering with their sound, the Gaslight Anthem seek a nice balance between heart and drive on their fourth album, Handwritten. With a sound that splits the difference between the more punk-influenced The '59 Sound and the rootsy earnestness of American Slang, the album finds the band returning with a sound that feels altogether more complete than its other work. It feels like the Gaslight Anthem have reached some new evolutionary stage in their growth, bringing together all of their influences into a sound that's more distinctly theirs.
The Gaslight Anthem have done what they do best with their first major label release, Handwritten: create an anthemic, honest, fun rock record. The band captured a great deal of attention with their breakout release, The 59' Sound, in 2008, with numerous comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, thanks largely to lyrics dealing with Springsteen-ian staples of young love, lost love and youthful summer nights in cars or on the boardwalk. The lyrics were backed up by catchy, if somewhat simple, melodies.