Well I said I was going to start doing this, and with Riot Fest fast approaching, why not start my reviews with the new Gaslight Anthem album Handwritten? And all from the comfort of my own phone?? These days guys, these days…
The Gaslight Anthem aren’t exactly a groundbreaking band, they just do everything well. They have their own sound, but that sound is instantly familiar. They get referred to as a punk band, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. They are a rock and roll band through and through and it shows on this record.
The opening track “45” is a good reminder that when they want to Gaslight can have a great up-tempo song. I’m personally a sucker for stupid lyrics like this as the song is just a metaphor for starting anew. But it doesn’t change that it’s catchy as hell.
The second and title track keeps that up-tempo going and has a great breakdown at the end of the song. But the third song “Here Comes My Man” switches things up a bit. They have an almost 60s era sound to the song (which is in large part thanks to a mandolin finding it’s way on the track) but again it fits. When Brian Fallon starts to belt out “sha la la la”s it’s like they’ve always done this. That’s what I mean by they just kind of do everything well.
Now the next 3 tracks are more in line with American Slang their 3rd album. They all have a bit of blues and country to them but with big choruses. I really liked hearing Fallon get real gritty with his voice on “Too Much Blood” A song that is about saying too much in a song. It’s a pretty interesting concept, having this struggle to make these song personal but not too personal.
The 7th track is currently my favorite on the entire album, “Howl”. It’s just a great song. Catchy, great sing along lyrics, just a great song all around. Then it’s back to more a more slower rock sound with “Biloxi Parish”.
The album finishes up with 2 ballads one acoustic “National Anthem” and “Mae,” a full band number. Both are great in their own respect. In the song “Mae” you see that Fallon loves his imagery (that’s actually true wIth the entIre album). With lyrics like “This city pumps it’s aching heart for one last drop of blood” it paints a desolate scene but with a chance for redemption. And I’m a sucker for it.
“Anthem” just reeks of a Springsteen acoustic number, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just another in the long line of great tracks that end Gaslight albums. They have a real knack for finishing off albums. And I think thats a very underrated ability to have. Track placement is very important to an album and they always close out their albums strong.
I really liked this album, I’m personally partial to The 59 Sound but this album still deserves to be called a Gaslight Anthem album. I believe I like it better than American Slang, but only time will tell on that.
All in all its always neat to see a band grow from what everyone said was just a “Punk Bruce Springsteen” band into there own full fledged sound. It’s also refreshing.
8 out of 10