The Gaslight Anthem
American Slang


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
May 3rd, 2010 | 245 replies | 45,866 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Why doesn't every rock band make music like this?

You're meant to begin these sorts of reviews by talking up the band's previous album and giving a bit of context for the one you're reviewing, right? Does anybody mind if I skip that part? The '59 Sound, quietly became one of the defining records of my decade for reasons I don't really think I can explain, despite how much I love it, and how ingrained those songs are into my head after dozens of listens. I know what I'd want to say, but how can you possibly say things like 'I want to scream every single one of the tracks at the top of my lungs from a mountain', or 'every other rock band in their entire country should be ashamed that they're not this good', or 'I basically hated rock music and they changed my mind' without sounding like a pretentious jerk?

So how can I even react to a follow-up - how can American Slang even dream of coming up against that? I shouldn't have worried; they've managed it. American Slang is a very subtle step forward from The '59 Sound, conjuring exactly the same thrills from slightly different angles. They're still the archetypal blue-collar all-American rock band given an emotionally sloppy, musically slick post-punk makeover, but here their palettes have broadened beyond Springsteen, Counting Crows, the Americanized end of The Clash, and blue-eyed soul to include the likes of Tom Petty (rather than just name-dropping him), Sam's Town-era Killers, and even (gasp!) foreign sources like Elvis Costello. It's reassuringly familiar, just as everything they've done is, but moments like the guitar solo on "Stay Lucky", the first few seconds of "American Slang", and most of "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" would have sat uncomfortably on the last album, or 2007's debut Sink or Swim for that matter.

It's not what I expected, purely because 'subtle' is not a word I'd ever really associate with The Gaslight Anthem. Truthfully their music is anything but; they paint broadly with emotions and stories, balancing the vagueness of their allegories out with selected minor character details ('here's where the angels and devils meet' vs. 'my father had died' on the title track; 'I'm a cannonball to a house on fire' vs. 'what man couldn't love her with that long black hair' on "The Spirit of Jazz"). Springsteen is the obvious comparison to be made there, just as it always was, but frontman Brian Fallon might be better served by being compared to another classic rock megastar - he has the youthful, direct energy of the young Bono, the wisdom of the old Bono, and a consistency neither could ever achieve. His lyrics and his delivery - both of them never less than passionate, sensitive, and full-blooded - are clearly the key to this band, and he still brings his A-game at all times.

Time will tell whether this becomes the constant soundtrack to my life that The '59 Sound did. I'm not sure yet; the one thing I will say is that a couple of the tracks here take clear cues from earlier ones ("Stay Lucky" starts in a very similar vein to "The '59 Sound", and the 'Just like a tomb' line in "Old Haunts" is taken from the pre-chorus 'my heart's like a wound' on "Great Expectations"), and on first impression, that indicates that this an album that will remind the listener of other things rather than one they'll enjoy purely on its own merits. There sure are some great moments, though - "Old Haunts" itself offers up a chorus so perfectly judged I almost want to applaud it, and both of "American Slang" and "Stay Lucky" are clearly, effortlessly masterful.

Looking at this on a purely objective level, it's almost exactly as good as its older brother; it's actually slightly better, if anything. I really hope that I learn to agree with that assessment subjectively, but even if I don't, this is still a disgracefully good album by a disgracefully good band, and it's nailed-on to be a year-end highlight.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
rasputin
May 3rd 2010



14516 Comments


awesome review, i need to hear this

Nagrarok
May 3rd 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Going to get this right now.

Romulus
May 3rd 2010



8411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This review pretty much nailed how I feel about this except I think The '59 Sound is a notch higher for me. But that just goes to say how good that album was.

Kiran
Emeritus
May 3rd 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

yeah really great review. at first i felt a bit disappointed but it really just needed a little time to sit with me, as it leaked amongst the other huge releases of the early year. "the diamond church street choir" might be my favourite but "stay lucky" and "old haunts" are sooo great.

Nagrarok
May 3rd 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Settling on a 3.5 right now. This lacks much of the energy and catchiness that made the '59 Sound so great.

Transient
May 3rd 2010



1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

so good

AtavanHalen
May 3rd 2010



17927 Comments


Good stuff.

Transient
May 3rd 2010



1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this sentence is a little lolwut though: 'They're still the archetypal blue-collar all-American rock band given an emotionally sloppy, musically slick post-hardcore makeover'

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 3rd 2010



7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. I was slightly dissapointed by the title track but Im still looking forward to hearing this.

qwe3
May 3rd 2010



21353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this album rules hard

Iai
Emeritus
May 3rd 2010



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually meant to type post-punk instead of post-hardcore there.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2010



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review Nick. If this even equals 'The '59 Sound', then it will be an excellent album.

EVedder27
May 3rd 2010



6088 Comments


Love this album. It isn't the '59 Sound, but it doesn't have to be.

alachlahol
May 3rd 2010



7471 Comments


so how blue collar are these guys i've never listened to them before

Brylawski
May 3rd 2010



709 Comments


the one thing I will say is that a couple of the tracks here take clear queues from earlier ones

shouldn't that be "cues"?



BigHans
May 3rd 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Maybe it needs more spins but this doesn't come within a galaxy of the '59 Sound. Sink or Swim beats it as well.

Inveigh
May 3rd 2010



24793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

^yep

theacademy
May 3rd 2010



28238 Comments


FIRST

theacademy
May 3rd 2010



28238 Comments


dam...

Mordecai.
May 3rd 2010



8270 Comments


I'm really digging this, love the guitars



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