“American Slang” by The Gaslight Anthem (Album Review)

June 15, 2010

It’s easy to wax poetically about how great the Gaslight Anthem is in big, hyperbolic statements for those of us who felt like we had found the music we hadn’t known we were waiting for the moment we first heard a song from them.

They’re a band that fans of feel bewildered about when we hand a copy to a friend to turn them on the sound and they hand it back saying, “well, it’s okay I guess.” “Okay?” we want to ask. More like fan-damn-tastic. Okay, so I can see how not everyone is going to feel as excited about their music as those of us who feel like their songs were custom built for us. Those of us who can’t play rock but if we could, we’d want to sound this good, we’d want to channel this passion, we’d want to spark a crowd that can’t dance with the crazy urge to dance all night, we’d want to pack this emotional gut-punch with the starry-eyed beat-poet nostalgic glory-days of American rock and roll story lyrics, we’d want to make this type of punk-punched Americana rock.

Gaslight aren’t doing anything ground-breakingly new; as I’ve written on this site before, they’re just nodding to their past roots and re-packaging them into something exciting and fresh. On “American Slang,” there are less blatant lyrical nods than on “The ’59 Sound” album (which sometimes had moments when it felt akin to hip hop’s method of sharing classic lines as subtle homages), but the influences of the band still peer through in pleasant ways. You can tell lead singer Fallon loves Sam Cooke-style soul, and as great as the moments in which that love is evident (as on “Diamond Street Choir”) it is also evident that their love for such sources came first from ’70s era rock bands who loved that soul sound and tried to channel it in live performances. Pre-release press had Fallon stating the Springsteen influence was downplayed a bit and that the band had been listening to a lot of Clash and English style classic rock. I don’t hear that so much, I do still hear some Springsteen influence though, as well as Replacements, Social Distortion, Tom Petty, Big Star, etc.

The entire “American Slang” album is amazing; I’ve been listening to it for a week or more thanks to the internet but I went today on release day to pick up the vinyl LP and the legal digital download that came with that. If you have a vinyl shop in your city and like good rock music don’t hesitate to pick this up; for under 14 bucks you can get a beautifully packaged, thick 180-gram gatefold LP and the digital tracks to 10 of the best rock songs that have been released since the last Gaslight album.

“The Boxer” has been hailed by some as their best single yet; I find it hard to top “The ’59 Sound” title track, but as a whole album this is their strongest work to date. It’s not a giant leap forward, which would be hard when they’ve been good since day one; 3 albums and 1 EP in and they’ve yet to release a bad song. 33 or so of the 35 some odd songs they’ve released are tunes I can hear any day at any time and be caught up with quickly. But on “American Slang,” their strengths all sort of coaelesce into something that sounds like who they truly are.

This album had some tough competition today–coming out the same day as another thoroughly consistent rock and roll band, one whose had 30+ years being consistent (Tom Petty) and the same day as the most hyped-up and industry pushed hip hop disc of the year (Drake), so there’s no telling how the sales will be. It’s a physical media type of album though, it’s too heart-of-early-rock-and-roll conscious to be only a series of MP3s. After weeks of listening to plenty of new music digitally, whether on the computer or on the i-pod, it was great to drop the needle on truly “real” music. Pick it up and then recommend it to a friend. Obviously those of us who feel we discovered the greatest purely-fun and repeat-listen-inducing rock band in the past ten years are growing in rank. The music press are eating them up, Rolling Stone noticed as far back as last year that they’re one of the few bands that are great live, on album, and able to transmit that live sound onto even a late night TV show (where many bands falter); RS claimed their appearance on Letterman almost sealed the deal for them as band of the generation, and a couple more albums this good and they might be right.

“American Slang” – 9.5/10


One Response to ““American Slang” by The Gaslight Anthem (Album Review)”

  1. […] raved about the LP these guys released this summer (read it here), I’m hyped to see them in concert next week and I’ll try and do a review of it here as […]

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