The Gaslight Anthem deliver another blues rock masterpiece.
This album’s release date has definitely been one of the most anticipated days on my calendar this year, and now that it has come I can safely say it was worth the wait.
Handwritten kicks in with recently released single ’45’, which is definitely one of the most powerful songs on the album, it combines everything that is ‘The Gaslight Anthem’; the energy of ‘Sink or Swim’ (2007), the mournful lyrics of ‘The 59 Sound’ (2008) and the melodic blues guitar of ‘American Slang’ (2009). From the opening guitar riff and front man Brian Fallon screaming whoa, through the meaningful hooking choruses, to the energetic ending, this track, about not being with the one you love, will leave you wanting more.
They have created a song which contains all their great aspects, and it is only the first track on the album, therefore if your ears aren’t enjoying themselves yet, they soon will be with the rest of the record.
Chants of “whoa, whoa” start off second track ‘Handwritten’, the song is a tribute to the process by which a song is written “out here in the dark, I cherish the moonlight, I’m in love with the way you’re in love with the night, and it travels from heart to limb to pen”, to when it is heard by the listener “let it out, let me in take a hold of my hand, there’s nothing like another soul who’s been cut up the same” and then is passed down to another listener “pull it out, turn it up what’s your favourite song? That’s mine, I’ve been crying to it since I was young”. The song is also related to the fact that the whole of the album ‘Handwritten’, was in fact handwritten, and no computers were used.
Too Much Blood is an amazing track, it captures something which isn’t seen a lot in The Gaslight Anthem songs, the song sounds like a homage to classic 50s rock and roll with a smooth riff and an unusual solo, something which I have not heard in a ‘Gaslight’ song before. You would think that through the last three albums we have heard everything Brian Fallon’s voice could do, soothing on ‘The 59 Sound’ and incredibly high on ‘American Slang’, now he’s trying to go to the deeper end of the scale in this song, and although new, it works really well. Fallon may be one of the greatest voices of this generation.
Since the release of The 59 Sound in 2008, The Gaslight Anthem fans have been waiting for another record with an impact of the same magnitude, unfortunately American Slang was not the album they were waiting for; although an amazing record all round, it just didn’t give you the same feeling as the first time The 59 sound rushed through your ears. Handwritten also doesn’t hit this mark, but it is not far from it, the album feels like a slower version of The 59 Sound, it also has an essence of ‘The Horrible Crowes’; the duet which Brian Fallon played in with Ian Perkins, with the dark lyrics and vocals on some tracks.
As soon as the guitar and gang vocals come in to ‘Howl’, it is obvious that this is going to be a fun and exciting song, and it does not disappoint, although short, it is two minutes and six seconds of pure energy, a track that will get you out of your seat and moving.
The song ‘Desire’ gives you the feel of a punk rock bands song with the background rhythm guitar, the opening sounds as though you are listening to Rise Against – if they started playing blues as well.
‘Mae’ the tenth track on the album is a song about trying to be with the girl you love, and once again Brian Fallon takes us on a journey using his soothing country voice; as tracks such as ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid’ from The 59 Sound and ‘We Did It When We Were Young’ from American Slang did.
‘National Anthem’, a song which Fallon claims was written in 20 minutes on a night in Nashville, takes us through Fallon’s memories and mind when looking at the world today,“what’s left for god to teach from his throne? And who will forgive us when he is gone?” It is an acoustic thought-provoking anthem and is a great way to close an amazing fourth album.
The Gaslight Anthem is made up of Brian Fallon (vocals and guitar), Alex Rosamilia (guitar and backing vocals), Alex Levine (bass and backing vocals) and Benny Horowitz (drums). They formed in 2006 and originate from New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Maybe handwritten is not a better album than ‘The 59 Sound’, the record which thrust them into the public’s eye, but the band have taken risks by combining genres. This album has it all, including aspects from their previous albums, and it shows their progression from 2007.
If you bought the deluxe edition of the album, you will have gotten three bonus songs which aren’t on the normal album, two of which, ‘Sliver’ and ‘You Got Lucky’, are Nirvana and Tom Petty covers. The other is ‘Blue Dahlia’, a song which I believe is powerful enough to be on the album.
So there you have it, an album with some rock and roll, some punk and a hell of a lot of blues rock. If you see this album, I advise you to buy it along with the band’s back catalogue. If The Gaslight Anthem are not in your life…you need them.
Listen to: 45, Mulholland Drive and Howl.
The Full Track-Listing is as Follows:
Here Comes My Man
Too Much Blood
– Deluxe Edition –
Sliver (Nirvana Cover)
You Got Lucky (Tom Petty Cover)