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.
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+).