For years, we Fallon’s have had to deal with the only famous carrier of our surname being an unfunny, untalented hack who laughs at his own jokes and headlines bad movies with Queen Latifah. It hasn’t been easy as everyone believes we are linked by name association; it’s an ugly life that has resulted in many courtroom visits for potential name changes (suggestion: Max Power) and long nights of agonizing emotional breakdowns.
Thank our lucky stars New Brunswick, New Jersey produced The Gaslight Anthem – and subsequently, another Fallon to the mix. This time, our leather-clad, rough-patched vocalist proudly totes the Fallon name (no relation) and is the punk rock equivalent of New Jersey’s other Golden God, Bruce Springsteen. In fact, Brian Fallon matches the Boss so much, he could be unofficially deemed Lil’ Boss – okay, well that name needs some work, but just work with me here.
While it’s no secret they are New Jersey boys, the band’s sophomore effort The ’59 Soundis hardly a slump and leapfrogs their impressive debut, Sink or Swim, which was one of 2006’s big sleeper hits. Packed full of vivid imagery and storytelling that resembles Born to Run/Darkness on the Edge of Town*-era Springsteen, The ’59 Sound is an impeccable work of punk rock art where each listen offers something new, never taking any hint of imagination or personal effect away from the listener; this is the album The Killers wanted to make with Sam’s Town but were unsuccessful at. Fallon sings in a breathy echo the duration of the album, offering up nostalgic anecdotes of discovery, longing and growing up through the classic years when mainstream music meant something. It’s soulful, affectionate and punk rock in the sense that the band never refutes to clunky musicianship and tries to force a message. The songs are all equally lax and meaningful, never lacking in expressing a vast amount of emotional trajectory to throw at the listener’s target.
Ted Hutt (Flogging Molly, Street Dogs) provides the record with a gritty, live feel (similar to many albums of the early 1970’s) – it’s as if you’re listening to a blues band take on a punk rock attitude, giving you twelve stark confessionals about life, love and the pursuit of “the good ol’ days”. The quiet moments are downright beautiful and honest without sounding melancholy (“The Backseat,” “Here’s Looking At You, Kid”); it’s obvious when things jazz up a bit (“Film Noir,” the country boogie of “Casanova, Baby!”) that the band is never reaching for a “new” niche or holding flashing neon lights above their heads – they are being themselves, and it provides the record with such a genuine, workhorse inspiration that you become absorbed into the sound, the words.
Benny Horowitz has a real E Street knack to his drumming, and delivers some incredibly smooth and raucous playing here; the electricity felt between Alex Rosamilia and Fallon’s guitar playing is so vibrant, it practically turns your veins into lightning bolts. Alex Levine’s bass is buried behind everything most of the 42 minutes, and while it’s hushed, it provides a intoxicating, subdued rhythm to songs like the title track and “Miles Davis and the Cool”.
Perhaps the most fun this record brings is not only the obvious all-American Springsteen qualities, but the events and happenings Fallon references throughout. The entire album is a salute to the classics, whether it be the infamous “day the music died” (if I even have to explain that, you should be researching your music history, post haste! Hint: the album title is a reference to this monumental event), The King or high top sneakers, this is the record The Gaslight Anthem were born to make. Yes, I know … that is cliche to say – but cliches are often said because they are so damn 100% true!
Everything here ought to make music fans both young and old proud to have working ears. Different from any other New Jersey punk band out there, The Gaslight Anthem isn’t recycling anything in a tired fashion – they are reinventing the classic Americana tradition we still proudly reflect on, and doing it in a way that so many other bands wish they could have done (or will do) on their second full-length. The scene is already crowded with boring, generic pop bands banking off former success stories – The Gaslight Anthem are simply looking farther back into their musical roots and branching out.
I think I can definitely say now that … it feels good to be a Fallon.