For many bands the first album is the easiest to write. You have your whole life to write it and perfect your style. On follow up releases however, there can be a great deal of pressure on you to perform well and time restraints and heavy touring schedules can get in the way of writing. There is even more pressure on a band when their debut album is as good as The Gaslight Anthem’s ‘Sink or Swim’. Released 10 months before the ‘Senor and the Queen’ EP hit shelves, their debut was simply fantastic and saw them become the band to namedrop in the punk scene. The success of the album though, bred very high expectations for the second album ‘The ’59 Sound’ which is scheduled for release in August. ‘Senor and The Queen’ could be perceived as a studio report of sorts, as the EP was released right in the middle of the recording process.
Generally speaking, ‘Senor and the Queen’ is very much in the same vein as their debut, only their optimistic brand of bluesy, folksy punk is even brighter than before and the energy levels are slightly toned down. However, that’s not to say that it is dull or lethargic though. Album opener and title track, ‘Senor and the Queen’
is brimming with fist-pumping energy and though it burns out perhaps a little too fast, it is a very positive sign of things to come not only the EP but hopefully on their forthcoming album. The last track here, ‘Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts’
is in direct contrast as it is the most laid-back, beautiful song they have written. It is essentially a country-influenced song, but the twinkling, ambient electric guitars transform the song into something much more dramatic. As Fallon croons “I’ll love you forever if I ever love at all”, backed up by beautiful, soothing female accompaniment you can really feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Simply beautiful.
While these two are two of the best songs that they have ever written the mid-section of the EP is less enjoyable and memorable. TGA bring the party with the upbeat punk-rock stylings of ‘Say I Won’t (Recognize)’
and while its infectious, danceable energy and song-writing (the tempo change in the middle of the song is genius!) its lyrics are, at best, cringe worthy. “We’re having a party, everybody’s swinging…” may be relevant because of the buoyant nature of the song, but seriously, that’s just plain uninspired. ‘Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?’
strongly resembles one of the better songs off of ‘Sink or Swim’ in ‘I’da Called You Woody, Joe’ only it is much more restrained and just nowhere near as good. There is not a whole lot wrong with it to be quite honest, but the band have set themselves high standards and the only problem with the track is that it is a little too ‘punk by numbers’ to be anything more than good.
Anyone that heard The Gaslight Anthem’s debut will most likely have very high expectations for this EP but their also their new album. It is unlikely that they will be able to recreate ‘Sink or Swim’ quality-wise but damn it, they’re doing the best they can, and the best is damn good! Half of the songs here are simply excellent and are just as good as, if not better than anything off of ‘Sink or Swim’; the other two songs are still good, just nothing special. The band really kept it short and sweet as ‘Senor and the Queen’ clocks in at a lean eleven-and-a-half minutes, but there is hardly a wasted second during this time. The EP is as varied as it should be and is proficient in both high-energy, folk rock tinged party punk and beautiful folk/country songs. If we assume that The Gaslight Anthem improve from this, even slightly, then their new album, ‘The ’59 Sound’, due August, is shaping up to be one of the punk albums of the year.