The Gaslight Anthem: ”ËHandwritten' (Mercury Records)
New Jersey's hopeless romantics ”ËThe Gaslight Anthem' return with another collection of highly referential, infectious songs, but can they prove that they are more than just the sum of their parts?
”ËHandwitten' is the band's first release on Mercury records, with the last two being on issued on the smaller SideOneDummy label. While their first two albums ”ËSink or Swim' and ”ËThe '59 Sound' were absolutely sublime examples of all that is great about American Rock N' Roll, ”ËAmerican Slang' was a somewhat lackluster affair which failed to capture the grandiose heights which they had achieved with the aforementioned works.
Thankfully, ”ËHandwritten' finds Fallon and his cohorts back on top of their game. It would be easy to sit and filter through all the musical and cultural references which are made on this album, and in doing so it would only detract from that fact that The Gaslight Anthem have managed to carve out a very particular musical niche for themselves in the last 6 years.
”ËKeepsake', ”ËToo Much Blood' and the obligatory ballad ”ËNational Anthem' (a beautiful final song) are all wonderful standalone tracks, however, the singles so far have been ”Ë#45' and the title track ”ËHandwritten' which are surprising choices.
There's certainly a great deal of musical and vocal dexterity on display within this album, with the musical nods extending far beyond the oft-cited Springsteen / Petty / Waits tags which get thrown at the band in most write-ups. That is not to suggest that those elements are not present, but when those artists are so prevalent and influential in carrying on the tradition of great American songwriters, it would be hard for any up and coming acts who wish to develop that style of performance to completely disassociate themselves from comparison.
Sure, The Gaslight Anthem wear their influences on their sailor tattooed sleeves, but they also manage to create a very fresh and exciting sound alongside it. There's enough ”Ësha-la-la's' and ”Ëwoah-woah-woah's' on this album to keep both the stadium rockers and the old punks happy, and enough songs about heartbreak, radios, cars and rain to keep even the most cynical of listeners interested.
Personally, I love them. I think that they're a band that epitomizes the purest sense of fun and enjoyment which can be gained from music. They manage to capture that daydream state of youth and can successfully transcribe that into catchy, genuinely emotional songs. They're the type of band who can make us all feel like we're living in a movie, and there's very few who could justifiably criticize them for doing that.
”ËHandwritten' takes a little bit of work, but once you familiarize yourself with it there is a great deal of pleasure to be taken from it. A definite advancement in their existing catalogue and a must buy for any music lovers who have a few chapters missing at the back of their Great American Songbooks.