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Recently proclaimed as "the best new band you'll hear in 2008" by Kerrang! magazine, Jersey boys The Gaslight Anthem capture more than that vague, nostalgic sense of irretrievable Americana they champion so well. The '59 Sound, recently released, has picked up a fair amount of media attention already, and with the band playing to sold out crowds as support for veterans like Bouncing Souls and Rise Against, it seems The Gaslight Anthem are primed for commercial success. If their recent show at New York City's Knitting Factory is any kind of litmus test for pending popularity, it would seem that every kid in America is about to go absolutely ape shit. The older 20-somethings just might get goose-bumpy, too.
The timing of The Gaslight Anthem's arrival seems nearly perfect. Tapping into the same artery pricked by Against Me! (you know, the smart, angsty one that's gorged with punk blood, wrapped in layers of heartbreak, confusion and desire, that explodes through a tiny hole with a startlingly poignant splatter), The Gaslight Anthem incites the kind of frenzy you'd expect from a punk or hardcore band. The band's shows are almost patternly such: the crowd surges, drinks fly, bodies are hoisted, lyrics are chanted and it's a single-minded sea of sweaty dedication.
|[Photo by Lisa Johnson]|
Structured around thematics of determination and hope, The '59 Sound is shaped with coolly executed riffs and cutting lyrics, all offered up with a tinge of rockabilly reverb. The formula works amazingly well, and The Gaslight Anthem have managed to contain their concoctions in the kind of three- and four-minute hymns that draw influence from the likes of Buddy Holly and Bruce Springsteen. That said, it's nearly impossible not to compare front man Brian Fallon's easy inflection and dusky timbre to that of The Boss himself, but such simple comparisons are not entirely fair; Fallon crafts such clever lyrics and sings with such obvious conviction that the tonal coincidence is probably just that.
The '59 Sound, the band's second full-length album, opens with "Great Expectations," a track instantly optimistic and retrospective. There's even a lyrical shout out to Bob Seger's "Night Moves." "Great Expectations" is an apt introduction to the album and is followed by the album' stitle track, in which Fallon muses "Well I wonder which song they're gonna play when we go / I hope it's something quiet and minor and peaceful and slow." Though the song touches on the weighty issue of death, it is not quiet, nor minor, nor peaceful, nor slow. Fallon expounds on exactly what happened - "See, I was playing a show down the road/ When your spirit left your body" - but instead of the funeral dirge one would expect, we get an entirely different take. The song's perspective on death is one where you can almost see him wrapping his head around it, sorting it out and responding with a dark understanding that comes from a life full-up with just about every kind of experience you could hope not to have.
Bassist Alex Levine continually provides catchy bass lines that punch up Alex Rosamilia's pleasantly understated guitar, especially on "Old White Lincoln" and "Miles Davis & The Cool," two tracks that, dare I say, have the kind of flighty touch that's reminiscent of The Cure. Rosamilia also helps up with some backing vocals, which go a long way on "Old White Lincoln." Drummer Benny Horowitz does his job admirably and never overplays; he seems entirely comfortable within the confines of each song, providing a kind of smooth and unadulterated foundation that allows each other member to stand solidly together.
Fallon has a gift for lyrics. They're simple, but sweeping. They're accessible but also guarded, often noticeably personal and painfully bittersweet. On The '59 Sound's second to last track, "Here's Looking At You, Kid," he sings, "And you can tell Jane if she writes/ that I'm drunk off all these stars and these crazy Hollywood nights/ And that's total deceit/ but she shoulda' married me." It's a direct statement with the kind of shoulder-shrugging sentiment that The Gaslight Anthem embraces so fully.
The album closes with "The Backseat," a triumphant ender that twists up cowboys, angels, and endless miles of highway in a "wild and reckless breeze." It builds and breaks and in the eye of the storm Fallon seems to grin as he simply sings, "In the backseat, we're just trying to find some room for our knees."
The '59 Sound delivers just about everything you could hope for in a well-written rock album. Having picked up fragments from the past it screams ahead to the future, a speeding and beleaguered train that's jumped the tracks somewhere in New Jersey, with a marathon of frenzied fans sprinting to scamper on board. Brian Fallon is at the helm, steering his old iron horse with the confidence of a conductor that may not have it all figured out just yet, but is pretty sure he's shoveled enough coal into the fire for a lifetime in which to understand it. Or, at least, write some damn good songs about it. SEE ALSO: www.gaslightanthem.com
SEE ALSO: www.sideonedummy.com
Wearing plain black t-shirts, LAS contributing writer Pat Sullivan thinks a lot about a lot of different things. He likes thermoses but rarely has occasion to use them. He lives in Brooklyn.
See other articles by Patrick Sullivan.
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