The Set List
By Brian Washburn
The Gaslight Anthem is not Bruce Springsteen. The four-piece rock band might come from the same place (New Jersey), have the same upbringing (blue collar) and play the same style of music (straight up rock ’n’ roll) and the way they’re moving up the “ladder,” they might just get up to that Springsteen level. Their third album, “American Slang,” may do it for them.
On the band’s previous album, the breakthrough success “The ’59 Sound,” vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Brian Fallon toned down the band’s punk inspiration and took their rock sound to a new level. Luckily for fans of “The ’59 Sound,” the new release does not switch the formula one bit but just makes minor adjustments to make for a more mature differentiation from previous material.
“American Slang” tunes up the band’s R&B and Motown influence, which they fuse into their soft rock guitars and jamming rhythm section. However, this does not mean the band slows down the tempo on the majority of the album. In fact, a number of “American Slang’s” high points come from the uptempo rockers the band has become known for, such as “American Slang,” “Boxer” and “The Spirit of Jazz.”
But just because the band didn’t change their musical formula much from their previous release doesn’t mean they didn’t attempt any risks. Songs such as “The Diamond Church Street Choir” and “The Queen of Lower Chelsea” showcase the band’s mix of classic rock ’n’ roll with a bit of rhythm and blues. It’s a shame the songs don’t get through to the listeners as well as the band’s other material on the album. In that case, the small risks were not worth the reward the band might see.
TGA might be described as rock, alternative or even a bit garage, but one word really fits perfectly: American. The band’s quintessential sound comes from the roots of classic American music and does not apologize.
The trials featured throughout the album with the classic sound fit for modern ears makes listeners realize the country they live in and how working tirelessly in a factory and artistry are just one step away from one another, as seen with Fallon’s words.
He has a way with words rarely seen in today’s modern music world. From childhood loves to the healing power of music to lost youth, Fallon doesn’t disappoint with his topics or in the way he expresses them with blue collar/Jersey jargon Springsteen would be proud of — “they cut me to ribbons and taught me to drive/I got your name tattooed inside of my arm/ I called for my father but my father had died/ while you told me fortunes in American slang.”
TGA might not be reinventing the wheel with American Slang, but they are certainly moving it forward, especially when you consider the lackluster and God-awful music coming out of the radio these days. Bruce Springsteen, they are not … yet. However, nobody who gives “American Slang” a try can deny that the release and the band’s future are heading in the direction of being Springsteen-esque.
Straight-forward rock ’n’ roll with heartfelt vocals and lyrics that grab listeners by the soul, it’s easy to imagine The Gaslight Anthem might just save rock radio. All we have to do is sit back and listen.
Brian Washburn is the founder of DBW and is currently working on a way to revolutionize the music industry.