Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Side One Dummy
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Revival, Heartland Rock
What did we think to The Gaslight Anthem's brief stop-off before they record a new album? Take a peek. It’s usually right to be cautious about collections like this one – however for a band as good as The Gaslight Anthem, the chance to hear a host of rare tracks is something to relish. The excellent ‘She Loves You’ and an impassioned acoustic version of ‘The ’59 Sound’ get things off to a great start, while excellent covers of The Rolling Stones and Fake Problems are worthy additions to the Gaslight canon.
Don’t accuse The Gaslight Anthem of slacking between the release of their fourth and fifth albums. Not content with putting out a live DVD of their 2013 show at London’s Troxy while bassist Alex Levine launches his vintage barbershop-themed lifestyle brand, they’re also offering up this lives and covers flipsides collection. Alongside a jangling juke joint version of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Tumbling Dice’ there are acoustic takes on ‘The ’59 Sound’, ‘American Slang’ and ‘Great Expectations’ which sound like they were recorded in a shonky old garage at the end of a big night on the bourbon.
On their studio albums, the Gaslight Anthem have worked out a kind of perfect ratio of earnestness and enthusiasm as they breathe new life into the rugged heartland rock of greats like Bruce Springsteen. With The B-Sides, fans are treated to another side of the band with a collection of live tracks, acoustic versions, covers, and unused studio cuts. While you could always describe the band's sound as raw, there's a sense of practiced composure on their albums that's refreshingly absent from the acoustic home recordings of "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" and "Boxer.
First things first: there is very little point to this collection of B-sides from New Jersey rockers the Gaslight Anthem. Essentially a pared down version of last year's singles box set — minus the singles, of course, and with a couple of additional tracks — it brings together acoustic takes on old favourites, a handful of covers and a muddy live cut. Completists already have all of the above — it's pretty widely available — and curious casual listeners have likely tracked down the acoustic takes on YouTube (there are thousands of them).Still, once you get past the affair's general cash-grab feeling, there are a handful of gems to be found.
Critical assessment of a b-sides compilation is an inherently dicey endeavor. You’re tasked with evaluating a collection of songs that, for myriad reasons, did not pass muster to be previously released, and have now been tossed together. A disc of misfit tracks that don’t even have the context of a meticulously planned album to support or bolster their virtues, that’s what a b-sides record is, and as such, each track has an uphill battle.
On paper, a Gaslight Anthem b-sides collection is a great idea. In less than a decade of existence, the group have amassed a wealth of fantastic non-album material, from their unique takes on material like Bob Dylan's "Changing of the Guards" and Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" to blistering originals like "Blue Dahlia" and "Our Father's Sons." Sadly, none of that is included on The B-Sides, an unfortunately phoned in collection that is neither comprehensive, nor cohesive.Before diverging into a tangent what The B-Sides could have been, let's talk about what it is. It bears mention that the material actually present on The B-Sides is phenomenal.