Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Northern Michigan tends to be famous for its brutal winters, but come around here in the summer and you might just see some shit. And by “some shit,” I mean blisteringly hot and oppressively humid days where there’s not a cloud in the sky to shield you from the unrelenting sun. Such were the conditions the first time I ever heard Handwritten.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fourth full-length album leaked to the internet on the hottest day of the hottest summer I can remember in my hometown. I recall that because my parents had no air conditioning when I was growing up, which meant their house could turn into a downright sweatbox on days like this one. My shitty 10-pound college laptop tended to overheat real fast on the hot days, which made it hard to do work, or download music, or talk about that music with your fellow fanatics on So when Handwritten hit the web, I downloaded it quickly to my iPod and then just as quickly left the house for a beach three miles down the road.

My first listens of Handwritten were spent sitting at a picnic table less than 50 feet from Lake Michigan as evening settled in and a red-hot July sun sunk mercifully beyond the horizon. Every four or five songs I paused to plunge myself into the waves and cool myself off from the radiant heat that was still lingering thanks to sunbaked concrete and white-hot sand. By the time the album spun around to its last two tracks, a pair of glorious evening beauties called “Mae” and “National Anthem,” the temperature in the air was finally dissipating and a nighttime chill was creeping into the breeze. Somehow, a sweltering day had morphed into an unspeakably gorgeous summer night, and I got to experience it while watching the sunset over the water and waiting for kingdom come with the radio on.

I can’t recall many more idyllic first listens to an album than that one, and it’s still the first thing that pops into my mind whenever I hear Handwritten. “I’m in love with the way you’re in love with the night,” Brian Fallon sings on the title track. I always loved that line and how much it said without saying very much it all. It’s a lyric that conveys romance, and possibility, and youthful abandon, and all the magic a night can hold when you’re young and you’re up for anything. Hearing it for the first time on the cusp of a night just like the one described in the song, in the grips of full summer glory, was perfect. So was the album.

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Review: The Horrible Crowes – Elsie

Brian Fallon didn’t NEED to make Elsie. By the time this album arrived – the one and only record Fallon made with the side project he dubbed The Horrible Crowes – Fallon was already well on his way to rock star status…or, at least, it seemed that way at the time. His full-time band, The Gaslight Anthem, had released three albums and an EP in the space of three years and about two weeks – a remarkable run that saw the band gaining ground with each release. By the time Elsie arrived in September 2011, there was already buzz brewing about Gaslight Anthem LP4, and about how that album had the potential to launch Fallon and company into a whole new stratosphere. Just about anyone else would have taken a well-deserved break. Based on the exhaustion that would eventually crash The Gaslight Anthem, maybe Fallon should have. Instead, he teamed up with his guitar tech, Ian Perkins, and made one of the great left-turn albums in 21st century rock ‘n’ roll. Some days, I think it might just be his masterpiece.

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The first time I ever heard American Slang was in my freshman college dorm room, just a week or two from the end of school, on a gorgeous April spring day. Now, if I’d been a law-abiding listener, the wait to hear the new album from The Gaslight Anthem—their follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed The ’59 Sound—still would have been the better part of two months. American Slang didn’t officially hit the streets until June 15. But 2010 was maybe the golden age of album leaks, and as a broke college student with a budget for little more than gas and the occasional midnight McDonald’s run with my roommate, that fact was very good news for me. It also meant that American Slang, a bulletproof summer soundtrack album, got to serve as the bookend to my first year of college, and to all the anticipation I was feeling as four months of summer approached.

When The ’59 Sound broke in 2008, The Gaslight Anthem quickly became one of the most buzzed-about rock bands in all the circles I was a part of online. Here was a band that respected classic rock traditions and made them sound new again; a band willing to pilfer from their influences in the most loving manner possible; a band whose frontman was, perhaps, worthy of being called “this generation’s Bruce Springsteen.” All that hype only became louder and louder throughout 2009 and into the early part of 2010, which meant that by the time Gaslight announced their new record, excitement for it was through the roof. A title and an album cover that seemed to promise another sweeping classic-rock-styled masterpiece? Well, who could resist that?

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt

“Completely different than anything we had ever done before.”

That’s the description that Brian Fallon, frontman for New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem, gave to Rolling Stone in regards to Get Hurt, the band’s fifth full-length studio album. In fact, in the lead up to this record, Fallon made numerous statements just like that, talking about how he and his band spent the writing and recording sessions for album number five listening to famous records where bands had changed course and gotten “weird.” For some, hearing Fallon reference U2’s Achtung Baby and how it took that band’s sound in a completely new direction was reason to become uneasy. After all, The Gaslight Anthem is a band that has made a career out of following small progressions from album to album, changing up the themes, lyrics, and song structures, but always maintaining the same core Jersey rock and roll sound. The prospect of a “weird” Gaslight Anthem album was nerve-wracking because, for many, imagining what that album could even possibly sound like was borderline impossible.

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

Artform will never cease being a self-involved & possessive medium for any and all onlookers. One can’t help but draw their own experiences in order to relate to whatever it is they see or hear from any artist, whether it be a painter, musician or filmmaker. Part of including our own relation to a piece is referring to our historical worldview, always spotting influence & inspiration. A song lyric, a brush stroke or even part of a character’s outift — we’re bound to pick out what we recognize, making it easier as participants to relate to the artist’s motivation and our own perspective.

In five short years, New Jersey quartet The Gaslight Anthem have gone from punk rock bruisers to one of the most celebrated & prolific modern rock acts on the scene. Much of that success stems from the band’s ability to seamlessly weave influences into their music, both in terms of lyrical reference and overall sound. With their 2008 breakthrough, The ’59 Sound, music fans relished the opportunity to hear a large combination of influence from Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley, something that was heard not only through the raspy vocal charm of Brian Fallon, but also through a more traditional, old-school production (courtesy of Ted Hutt, who is also present on this record). Many of the themes and style were reminescent of 1950’s rock n’ roll, something the band used to their advantage. With their third full-length, American Slang, the distinction between individual art and influence continues to grow, offering everyone on board a chance to carefully sift through and pay tribute to the influential legends, all while concocting their own sound for the future.

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Review: The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

Gaslight Anthem - 59 Sound

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.

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