Results tagged “Gaslight Anthem”

The Gaslight Anthem: Sink or Swim

While Sink or Swim, the Gaslight Anthem's 2007 debut, is undeniably, one of the better records to emerge out of the punk scene over the past few years, it may be the band's weakest release. Of course, this is saying a whole lot. After all, both their follow-up EP, Señor and the Queen, and their sophomore album, The '59 Sound, are phenomenal (and, especially in the case of the latter, genre-expanding) releases. So, really, listening to Sink or Swim after having heard the band's most recent output may not be the best approach to reviewing the disk. I mean, you can't help but be a bit biased.


At any rate, Sink or Swim is certainly not your run-of-the-mill debut effort. The Gaslight Anthem are one of the tightest outfits on the circuit today, consistently polished and capable of the sort of unified sound most good bands require several albums to achieve. And you can hear it on this first record. There really isn't a lousy track on the disk.

All the hallmarks of the Gaslight Anthem's sound are present on Sink or Swim, though perhaps not in as breathtakingly mature a manner as on The '59 Sound: Brian Fallon's soulful Bruce Springsteen-meets-Tom Waits rasp, punk-infused roots rock riffs, and immensely catchy sing-along choruses. Unlike The '59 Sound, however, Sink or Swim does not offer quite as many stand-out singles, which makes for a strikingly balanced listening experience. The band's performance, with the significant exception of "I'da Called You Woody, Joe," is consistently very good on the record, but most tracks fall just shy of great. In other words, Sink or Swim is an excellent album that really needs to be played start-to-finish in order to be properly appreciated because there's not as many mix tape-ready tracks to pull from the disk.

Highlights:

Track 1. "Boomboxes and Dictionaries." A driving rhythm serves up one of the album's catchier choruses like a Jersey Shore wave breaking just in time to deliver a surfer to his or her perfect crest.

Track 2. " I Coul'da Been A Contender." Despite the dubious placement of the apostrophe in the song's title, this track is close to flawless.

Track 5. "1930." One of the most representative of the album's tracks, "1930" is the perfect introduction to the Gaslight Anthem's nascent soul punk sound.

Track 8. "I'da Called You Woody, Joe." The band's heartfelt dirge for Joe Strummer captures the shock Fallon felt upon learning of of the Clash frontman's untimely heart attack and transforms it into a sublime punk rock threnody.

Track 9. "Angry Johnny and the Radio." Try not to sing along with this one. Seriously. It's like eating one potato chip. You just can't resist.

Track 12. "Red At Night." A clear nod to Billy Bragg's "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key," "Red At Night" is a beautiful acoustic performance as electrifying as the most intense of plugged-in sets.

Sobriquet Grade: 86 (B).

Incidentally, I caught the Gaslight Anthem's show in Asbury Park last night. The third of three "At Home for the Holidays" shows put on by the Bouncing Souls, the concert featured the legendary pogo punks as headliners and the Gaslight Anthem as one of three opening bands. The show was originally scheduled for the Stone Pony but a last minute venue change resulted in the rather unfortunate decision to hold the concert in the Grand Arcade, a glass-enclosed section of the Asbury Park boardwalk with less than ideal acoustic properties. In addition to the sound-absorbing Christmas tree to the right of the stage, the high, cathedral-esque ceilings and disproportionately wide proportions of the hall swallowed quite a bit of the music and what managed to escape often got trapped in the odd nooks and crannies of the beachside boutiques lining the concourse. With the exception of one Bad Religion concert in Montreal's Jarry Park, I have never attended a punk show held in such an overlarge space and, to be honest, the music suffered.


In addition to the Bouncing Souls and the Gaslight Anthem, with whose music I am rather well acquainted, the bill included two other Jersey bands, Let Me Run and Gimme Drugs, neither of which really struck me as especially good. Let Me Run has a rather melodic brand of hardcore-leaning punk and gave a pretty solid performance, though the lead singer seemed a bit nervous at times. Gimme Drugs, as their rather lame name suggests, are one of those bands that are not particularly inventive. Armed with lyrics occasionally delivered in an obnoxious spoken word style and jokes ("Hello, we're the Gaslight Anthem. Heh, heh, heh.") that fell flat, Gimme Drugs did not engage the audience much.

The Gaslight Anthem were great, though. You can tell the band is about to get huge. I mean, the crowd was swarming with Brian Fallon lookalikes. The original Fallon, of course, is a natural performer, regularly engaging the audience in banter and sing-alongs. Clearly very comfortable on stage, the Gaslight Anthem displayed remarkable chemistry, exchanging playfully knowing glances and orchestrating deceptively casual musical improvisations that really electrified the audience.

Playing an extremely tight set, the Gaslight Anthem leaned heavily on The '59 Sound, though they played a fair amount of songs from both their previous records. Watching the band, I was pretty certain I was watching The Next Big Thing.

The Bouncing Souls, predictably, performed an energetic set of pogo-punk tracks that drove the circle pit into a frenzy. Initially dressed in matching red holiday jumpers, the band came across as extremely fan friendly, often holding the mike to the throbbing mass of kids dying to sing along with this most sing-alongable of bands. With such novelties as a tongue-in-cheek (though quite good) acoustic cover of the Misfits' "Hybrid Moments" thrown in to pace what would otherwise have been a blistering set of pop-punk tunes, the Souls were perfectly tuned to their audience. Mixing newer tracks (including debuting an unreleased song) with selections from the band's first two decades of recording, the Bouncing Souls gave a pleasantly balanced set, being certain to cater to both newer and older fans.

While I did experience a bit of disappointment with the venue and some chagrin at the programmer's strange tendency to play AC/DC CDs during set changes, the show was one of the better ones I've seen lately and, just maybe, I can say I witnessed the Gaslight Anthem as they were getting ready to rocket to the big time. The next time I see the band, I doubt very much the tickets will be so cheap or the venue so small. They're that good.

The Gaslight Anthem: The '59 Sound

Holy shit, this record is good. I mean, I absolutely loved "Señor and the Queen," but The '59 Sound exceeds the high expectations I'd had for my fellow Jersey boys after picking up that wonderful little EP in May. "Exceeds" may, in fact, be a bit of an understatement. The '59 Sound blows my fucking mind.


Let me see if I can put it this way: while Sink or Swim sounds a bit like an Against Me! album and "Senor and the Queen" could be confused for a Bruce Springsteen disk, there's no mistaking that The Gaslight Anthem put out The '59 Sound. While certainly not abandoning their influences, The Gaslight Anthem foregrounds their own singular sound on this record.

Indeed, The '59 Sound is an extremely mature release, somehow both gritty and polished. Although Brian Fallon's soulful rasp of a voice is frequently (and justifiably) compared to that of the Boss, such assessments are not wholly accurate. The vocals, like the rest of the band's instrumentation, owe at least as much of a debt to the scads of less famous roots rock, blues, and soul musicians of the 1950s and 60s one can dig up in the dusty corners of New Brunswick's used record stores as they do to Bruce Springsteen.

Highlights:

Track 1. "Great Expectations." The mournful nostalgia that drives this fast-paced tale of regret somehow weaves melodic guitar-driven punk with mid-sixties era Motown harmony to fashion a hauntingly sublime tune. It sounds a bit like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing Mike Ness's setting of Mrs. Havisham's biography to music.

Track 2. "The '59 Sound." Although the title track is undeniably the album's most obviously radio-friendly song, it doesn't sound forced. The same melancholy-tinged punk energy at the heart of "Great Expectations" hits its crescendo on the second track, setting the tone for most of the album.

Track 3. "Old White Lincoln." Here, the melancholy yields to melody. Backed by the album's best drumming performance, the third song's bouncing bassline, oohs and aahs, and tingling guitars makes you want to pick up your very own Chuck Taylor-shod, tattooed punk rock sweetheart and go for an afternoon drive through Morris County. . .

Track 7. "The Patient Ferris Wheel." On loan from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dicky Barrett helps transform "The Patient Ferris Wheel" from a good tune to an album-defining sing-along.

Track 8. "Casanova, Baby!" Roots rock grit meets melodic perfection.

Sobriquet Grade: 93 (A).

Gaslight Anthem: Señor and the Queen (EP)

One of the things I've always loved about punk rock is the pleasingly anachronistic tendency many bands have to release 7" singles and EPs in an era defined by CDs and digital downloads. Of course, you can find EPs like the Gaslight Anthem's Señor and the Queen on iTunes and other digital download sites, but there's something altogether charming in knowing that the 7" release of this record is out there and that it will probably end up in the kick-ass jukebox at the Triple Rock.


Let me just say that, as someone hailing from New Jersey, I've grown accustomed to hearing all sorts of inaccurate crap about the Garden State and describing anything as "New Jersey" is liable to be misunderstood as a negative assessment. So I am going to make this crystal-clear: describing the Gaslight Anthem as the most thoroughly New Jersey band I've heard in a long, long time is a good thing. A really good thing.

Okay? Got that?

It's no secret that after Bruce Springsteen saw the Ramones in Asbury Park, he went home and wrote "Hungry Heart" for the Forest Hills legends. Of course, Jon Landau convinced the Boss to keep the song and it went on to become one of his biggest hits. The Ramones, meanwhile, remained just outside the mainstream, always lacking the one massive single that would have brought them the fame they deserved. Now, three decades later, the Gaslight Anthem are like something out of speculative fiction: this is what pop music would be if Springsteen hadn't listened to his producer, let the Ramones record the song, and launched the C.B.G.B.'ers into megastardom.

At any rate, the Gaslight Anthem recall the best of Springsteen's brand of heartland rock. Armed with lyrics steeped in Americana and backed by what sounds a bit like the Bouncing Souls playing Tom Petty, Brian Fallon's gravelly vocals evoke the Boss at his anthemic peak while somehow managing not to sound derivative. Not an easy feat, to be sure.

Highlights:

Track 1. "Señor and the Queen." Easily the record's most energetic tune, the title track may well be the best example of the soul punk sound in existence. Seriously.

Track 2. "Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?" I love this song. I mean, you've got a driving bass line, a twangy guitar, and a bit of the folksy vibe you associate with Against Me! You really can't go wrong.

Track 3. "Say I Won't (Recognize)." A radio-friendly anthem that adds a dose of pure punk speed to a slower, cowbell-tinged sing-along. You won't be able to keep your hands from clapping or your toes from tapping.

Track 4. "Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts." Okay, this is the Boss, right?

Sobriquet Grade: 89 (B+).
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