The Gaslight Anthem
The '59 Sound


5.0
classic

Review

by Dan Smith USER (74 Reviews)
August 22nd, 2008 | 219 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 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."

Boy, am I glad this album didn't come out about six years ago... That sounds like a strange statement to make, but back then, I was one of those kids who judged music purely on it's ability to carry a message; a giant "fuck you" to somebody, anybody, as long as there was anger, rebelious intent and righteous indignation. Had I heard a line like "I saw tail lights last night in a dream about my first wife, everybody leaves and I'd expect as much from you" back when I was fourteen, I'd mostly likely have turned my nose up and gone back to scrawling Pennywise logos on my textbooks. However, time and experience are cruel mistresses, and after six years of crushes, failed relationships, the mundane reality of working soul-crushing jobs, and the sad realisation that, having turned twenty, the fabled "best days of my life" are mostly behind me, I've come to appreciate the value of enjoying music as escapism. Sometimes all it takes is a few lines of particularly poignant storytelling lyrics, like those found in The '59 Sound, to whisk me away into another world, one where I don't work in a fucking petrol garage to lessen the crippling debts of a university education.

The world conjured up by The Gaslight Anthem is one of living fast, dying young, grabbing hold of life with both hands not letting go. It's not hard to imagine vocalist Brian Fallon sitting on the hood of a classic convertible when he wrote these lyrics, listening to The Drifters' "There Goes My Baby" while looking down at the twinkling skyline of a city he's contemplating leaving forever; his refreshingly honest tales of unrequited love, riding ferris wheels at county fairs, and driving through the night are rendered in vivid colour by the iconic 50s imagery and Fallon's gritty, soulful delivery, so much so that after just one listen, you start telling yourself you'd gladly bear the load of the remorse and regret that drip from his lyrics, if it meant being able to live the life that his words paint throughout.

However, such beautiful storytelling would be wasted were it not for the fact that, in The '59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem have crafted some of the best stripped-down soulful rock music ever put to tape - catchy basslines, driving drumbeats, twinkling guitar melodies over rumbling powerchords - aside from a few moments ("Film Noir" for example), there's little of the stompy punk that saw their debut Sink or Swim gain comparisons to Against Me, with the band preferring to stick to a more straight ahead Americana-infused brand of rock, peppered with the occasional country-ish or folksy flourish.

It's true to say that they maintain this style throughout the whole album, but the varied and inspired songwriting ensure that no two songs sound the same, with every number jammed full of memorable hooks. Hearing Fallon wail "Maybe I should call me an ambulance" over Alex Rosamilia's lithe guitar lines, a pounding beat from drummer Benny Horowitz and bassist Alex Levine, and soaring backing vocals courtesy of Hot Water Music's Chris Wollard and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dicky Barrett in "The Patient Ferris Wheel" is a moment that'll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end every time. In contrast, the subdued bluesy melancholia of "Here's Looking at You, Kid" and it's sad refrain of "Boys will be boys, and girls have those eyes that'll cut you to ribbons sometimes" is as heart-wrenching and emotional as it gets. It's virtually impossible to choose a favourite song here, as every one has it's own mix of hooks, endearing lyrics, and memorable melodies that'll ensure it remains ingrained in your subconscious for years to come. They're made all the more beautiful by Ted Hutt's brilliant production job; by fusing the authentic sound of the 50s (all echoey vocals and tremulant guitar reverb) with the big stadium-rock drum sound of the 80s, all with a slick (but not overly so) modern sheen, he's ensured the record has a character all it's own.

It's hard to ignore the immense hype that this record is receiving from all sides, but rather than simply pandering to current trends, or trying to capture the zeitgeist, The Gaslight Anthem have risen above all expectations, stayed true to themselves and their own influences, and made the record THEY wanted to make, one which will stand as a career-defining effort, and a modern classic; in thirty years' time, aspiring musicians will be singing about The Gaslight Anthem with the same fondness that Brian Fallon sings about Elvis and Miles Davis on The '59 Sound, and in no way is that a bad thing.



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user ratings (1303)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
spoon_of_grimbo
August 22nd 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i should point out that my recommendation for that killers album in the sidebar there is a reference to the fact that, in "sam's town" the killers were trying to make a similarly themed album to this (in terms of style and production), and that TGA have succeeded where the killers (IMO) failed.

P13
August 22nd 2008


1327 Comments


I haven't heard this but this is a stellar review, imo you explained your rating well.
There is a problem in the last paragraph: [L]Miles Davis[?l]

spoon_of_grimbo
August 22nd 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks! it's streaming on their myspace at the moment (at least i think it still is), definitely worth a listen.

yeah i spotted that after i'd posted, as well as a few instances of ***s covering words, but i've done a quick re-edit, so it should be okay now.

Mendigo
August 22nd 2008


2299 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I already wanted to check this out when the german music site www.plattentests.de which I visit regularly has given it 9/10 points. However, this review finally really convinced me to get it as fast as possible.

mx
Moderator
August 22nd 2008


733 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

5.0 is a bit high -- but good album

Athom
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2008


17222 Comments


Stellar review (love the 2nd paragraph). These guys really outdid themselves and created a beast of an album.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 22nd 2008


3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty cool review, I just wish you didn't bold and italicize everything. It looks stupid. Albums should be in italics and songs in quotations. Simple is better.

Tyler
Emeritus
August 22nd 2008


7926 Comments


Agreed. I like this, though I've only heard it once. It feels a little too samey and the imagery too forced to give it a 5. I'm not sold on the production either.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Excellent review Spoon of Grimbo. A definite positive vote from me!
You have continued the hype for this album and done so very effectively.
Being nitpicky, the first sentence of the 4th paragraph could have been somehow cut into 2 as it goes on forever, while you may have spoken about a couple of individual songs a little more than what you have.
On the positive side, I am glad you left The Killers reference out of the review itself as I seriously think those who are including it in their reviews are taking a bit of a cheap shot for no reason.
Well done on the review.This Message Edited On 08.22.08

Tyler
Emeritus
August 22nd 2008


7926 Comments


There's no point in talking in detail about individual tracks because they're all a variation on the same thing.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Don't get me wrong Cocaine, I didn't want the reviewer to do a t-b-t, but I thought that more than 3 of the songs could be referred to. Then again, if what you say is true and they are all a variation on the same thing, then that's fine. BUT the reviewer's line suggesting that "...the varied and inspired songwriting ensure that no two songs sound the same..." does NOT suggest he necessarily feels the same as you do.

spoon_of_grimbo
August 23rd 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks for the comments and criticism guys. i've made a few changes to the review (good call on the text formatting Dfel, i hadn't really noticed how cluttered it was getting til i tried what you said).

i tend not to go into too much detail about individual tracks in my reviews anymore DaveyBoy, i'll give a couple of examples of the sound/lyrics from one or two songs, but generally i try and put the emphasis on the album as a whole, rather than individual tracks. the bit about no two songs sounding the same was more a way of saying that none blend into one another - they're all in a similar style, but the actual structure and melody elements of the songwriting ensure that there's enough difference between tracks.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2008


2688 Comments


One of the best punk releases this year, although Build & Burn will finish ahead of this record in my personal year-end list, I believe.

spoon_of_grimbo
August 30th 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

tbh build and burn will be lucky if it makes my top ten, and i REALLY like that record. it's been a real fuckin good year for music, at least for me anyway. i gotta say though, i think TGA do this sorta thing better than the loved ones.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2008


2688 Comments


It was a real good review, I omitted that part of my post.
All you have to do is make a bigger list! Twenty, twenty-five, fifty... :p

Yazz_Flute
August 30th 2008


18810 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

One of my friends really likes this band, i think ill check them out, itunes previews sound damn good.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 30th 2008


3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As far as an album's character goes, this and Build & Burn are definitely similar and play off the same sensibilities. Both great albums and will have place on my Top 25 and maybe my Top 10.

Intransit
September 4th 2008


2797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A 5? Really girl? Really?

Great Expectations, The 59 Sound, The Patient Ferris Wheel, Here's Looking at You Kid, and The Backseat are the only great songs on here. Everything else is passable (except for Miles Davis--Epic fail song right there), but nothing extraordinary.

spoon_of_grimbo
September 7th 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

who u callin girl, bitch?

spoon_of_grimbo
September 7th 2008


2241 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

in all seriousness though, i've listened to this album A LOT since writing this review, and i still find it as amazing now as i did then. i really can't see this rating dropping at all. and what's so wrong with "Miles Davis..." in particular?

and yeah, i think Build and Burn will definitely be in my top 20, but there's been a few albums that have really taken me by suprise this year, by several bands i'd previously not even heard of, and providing they don't get old quickly, they're why B&B won't be in my top 10.



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