The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten: Singalongs And Springsteen Riffs

The new album marks the first major label release from the New Jersey boys, but does it follow in being a success like its predecessors?
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Released 24/07/2012, on Mercury Records


Looking back over their three album career, it’s hard to come up with a wrong move from The Gaslight Anthem. Given that the band has stuck religiously to their formula of Springsteen-esque riffs, scratchy vocals, punchy guitars and lyrics that document the lives, loves and deaths of youth, you would think someone over at Mercury (their new major-label home after 3 previous independent releases) would be forcing the band to do a Kings Of Leon on us, sex it up, shift a million copies and make some big bucks. But stuck to it, The Gaslight Anthem have. And thankfully it’s exactly what their fans would want from them.

Musically, the album is pretty flawless. Fallon once again proves himself not only a fearless, emotive vocalist on songs such as ‘Mulholland Drive’ and ‘Howl.' but also showcases some of his finest poetic lyrics on songs likes the heartbreak-heavy ‘Desire’ where he muses: “Some men spend their lives, Chasing the accolades of pride, But that just never crossed my mind…” or the haunting ‘Too Much Blood’ where he asks us; “what can I keep for myself if I tell you my hell? What would be left to take to my grave?”

The Gaslight Anthem haven't claimed to be a totally original band, which is a good job because it has never been more obvious than on this album that they worship at the alter of The Boss. Tracks like ‘Handwritten’ and first single ‘45’ have the anthemic, Americana sound that is synonymous with their New Jersey compatriot, but Fallon and co also tip their hats softly to some different influences this time around. The Pixies and Van Morrison, Pearl Jam and Tom Petty are all evident, to varying degrees. It's very noticeable that a lot of the tracks on this album, whilst remaining true to their roots do sound ‘stadium ready’, with big choruses, throbbing drums and plenty of opportunities to chant along,  perhaps thanks to the stellar input of seasoned producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, AC/ DC).

The only criticism with the album is that they do sometimes run the risk of repeating themselves. For instance, there are plenty of moments on the album where Fallon talks about death or the death of someone he loves, such as on the melancholy ‘Biloxi Parish’ where he declares “when you pass through from this world, I hope you ask to take me with you or that I don’t wait too long.”  Similarly, whilst there will be thousands of people itching to sing along at festivals around the world to the infectious ‘woah ohs’, ‘shalalala’s and ‘ah woah oh’s’ that litter every song, after a while they do weara little thin.

On the whole however, The Gaslight Anthem have once again made an album that is universal in its appeal. Well written, well produced and generally well received, this marks a turning point in their career; here’s to big things for them this year.

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