If “Great Expectations” was the start to The Gaslight Anthem’s critically acclaimed album, The 59 Sound, the first song on their new album might as well been called “Impossible Expectations”. With all eyes on them, Brian Fallon and crew have crafted the follow-up to one of the best records of 2008.
The Gaslight Anthem has recorded another gem in their repertoire on albums. American Slang is the newest addition, and while it sounds similar to their previous recordings, it shows the band’s maturity both as musicians and as people.
The album kicks off with the title track “American Slang”. Upon first listen, the song seems rather simple and uninspiring; however, with further listens it ropes you in, as most Gaslight songs do. Brian Fallon’s vocals and lyrics shine over the background cooing of “Oh Oh” as he belts, “Oh well you told me fortunes in American Slang”. With punchy guitars and a great melody this song sets the course for the rest of the album.
Unlike the band’s last record, The 59 Sound, this album lacks the reverb effect on Fallon’s vocals, which is somewhat missed on “American Slang”. Another drastic change in the recording process is the placement of the lead guitars in the mix of the record. At first the lower, more compressed sounding placement was off-putting, but after more and more listens it makes sense. The guitar flows seamlessly through the songs, never coming off as a standalone part as many lead parts can.
What is clear on songs like “The Diamond Church Street Choir” is the band’s affinity for soul and pop music. As a honky-tonk-like lead guitar part bounces along under Fallon’s New Jersey twang, one cannot help but think back to the days where rock-and roll wasn’t about image or being a rock star, but was about music.
“Orphans” may be a new crowd favorite. Easily one of the faster songs on the record, and more reminiscent of the band’s earlier release, Sink or Swim, it comes out of the gate running with drummer Benny Horowitz’s fast-paced drumming shines.
Ending with a slow song, “We Did it When We Were Young”, one can’t help but get sucked in with Fallon’s vocals set against themselves with him crooning and whispering on separate tracks (the reverb effect is seen on this particular track).
The Gaslight Anthem has largely been defined by their ability to craft songs that could be of a different era, while simultaneously having a contemporary sound. I have said it once, and I’ll say it a million times: This band can be the saviors of rock-and-roll, as we know it. An unparalleled sense of passion and fun runs through their veins, and is making them an indispensible part of Americana. I have not heard a band that I believed in so much since I heard Brand New. While there is a totally different style to both sets of bands, one thing is clear: The Gaslight Anthem has found their voice, and they want us to sing it with them.
Favorite Tracks: American Slang, Orphans, Old Haunts, The Spirit of Jazz
RIYL: The Boss, the Loved Ones, The Clash, Falling in love, not listening to sh*tty music.
Brian Fargnoli is a former WCDB DJ and is currently underemployed and riding a bike on Long Island.