(Ed. Note: This is a new feature that we’re going to do every Sunday we aren’t vacationing until at least September, in which we extol the virtues of one record, past or present, that you need to hear. Basically, it’s amateur music critic hour, so bear with us.)
Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
From: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Members: Brian Fallon (lead vocals/guitar), Alex Rosamilia (lead guitar/backing vocals), Alex Levine (bass/backing vocals), Benny Horowitz
Title: The ’59 Sound
What Other Critics Have Said (So you can call us on our b.s. for ripping them off):
“Everything here ought to make music fans both young and old proud to have working ears. Different from any other New Jersey punk band out there, The Gaslight Anthem isn’t recycling anything in a tired fashion – they are reinventing the classic Americana tradition we still proudly reflect on, and doing it in a way that so many other bands wish they could have done”
-Chris Fallon, Absolute Punk
These songs are simple, mostly, but they’re executed perfectly. Fallon and guitarist Alex Rosamilia do this thing, mostly on the quiet bits, where their guitars wrap twinkly harmonies around each other, getting loose and intricate without being showy about it. And when the guitars turn into chorus-firepower, it just kills because it’s been so long since we’ve heard anyone pull that off with such panache.
-Tom Breihan, Pitchfork Media
The Gaslight Anthem have crafted some of the best stripped-down soulful rock music ever put to tape – Remember where you were when you first heard “The ’59 Sound.”
-Dan Smith, Sputnik Music
Chances are you’ve heard a lot of the features that make New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem great. Probably all of them. The too-earnest-to-be-as-cliche-as-they-should-be lyrics of their heroes, Bruce Springsteen. The range of the guitars, mixing from the 80′s weeping of The Cure to the jangle of R.E.M. and Social Distortion. The big beat drums Benny Horowitz plays. Oh, and a band from South Jersey with a singer in leather jackets and a Jewish drummer? Yeah, it’s hard to say the visage of The Gaslight Anthem is something you haven’t seen before.
But perhaps you’re young like me, and you’ve never heard a band of people near your age put it all together before. Maybe all you’ve got are your parents Tom Petty tapes, or that copy of Born in the U.S.A. that’s in every house in this country. Maybe, just maybe, you’re tired of hearing classic rock on a classic rock station, and you’re waiting for some guys who don’t look like they’re getting ready to head to the retirement home to make The Great American Rock Record. Even if you’re old enough to know what music video really made Courtney Cox famous, perhaps you just want to hear a new voice to sing you all those great songs.
Well here it is boys and girls, young and old. This is the record that will save American Rock and Roll. Trust me, it is dying. Have you looked lately at what’s on the rock charts in this country? Either you’re too old to name any of them, or you’re young enough to be embarrassed at out badly they are and how they’ll be dated in about two years (I’m talking to you, Linkin Park). The ’59 Sound is bar none, the most timeless record produced in years, maybe decades.
Now, I’ve written about 500 words without telling you what makes it great. Let the songs speak for themselves. In nature, they are basic. Very few solos, yet each member shines at some point. Horowitz’s drum fills intensify the groovin’ “Miles Davis & The Cool”. Rosamilia’s guitar riff on “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” is as intoxicating as anything you’ll drink at the shore this summer. Levine’s bass is a constant presence throughout.
As for leader Fallon? The boy with the Springsteen-ian daddy complex and aforementioned leather jackets and hair grease? Meet your new rock god, America. He comes off as superhero-esque as any of the singers he’s talking about. He swaggers with Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman Dickie Barrett in the background of “The Patient Ferris Wheel”. He croons sadly on “Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid”. He defines The Gaslight Anthem’s edge, sound, and range.
Oh, and what a range it is. From the heartland-punk of “Film Noir”, to the 80′s, bass-heavy “Old White Lincoln”, to a point where the band actually swings on “Casanova, Baby!” They literally pull all of it off without sounding as if they’re stretching or not sounding like themselves. Fallon’s voice fits over almost anything. A recently recorded cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up” proves that, for sure.
But what about the lyrics? If a band’s got the sound and it ain’t got the words to make it interesting, then why buy any rock record? Fallon’s re-telling of the classic tale of yearning for pretty girls, getting clean and getting out to something better is given substance through personal tales of self-discovery and pain. Like when he laments about being “Better safe/than making the party. And I never had a good time” in “Great Expectations”, or the pure tear-jerking heartbreaking of “Here’s Looking at You, Kid”.
Like I said, this is the record you’ve been waiting for. It sounds good in the car, in the headphones, at a party. There’s minimal filler (one track, “Meet Me By the River’s Edge, overdoes the Bruce-worship a bit) and it’s a record that’ll pass you by in a flash. That’s the beauty of The Gaslight Anthem, in summation. They know what they’re here to do, and they get it done without ever overstaying their welcome, so you’ll have them back again and again and again. Boy, I hope we get to hear something like The ’59 Sound again.