Review Summary: The Gaslight Anthem continue their upwards trajectory.
Once again fueled by nostalgia and charisma, The Gaslight Anthem continue their steady ascension with American Slang. To declare that The Gaslight Anthem have been consistent would be a sharp understatement. Over the years, the band has become utterly synonymous with creating albums where every song is listenable. Even if it’s been a pretty homogenous run, the quality of their progression has remained lovably steadfast. Ever since the days of Sink or Swim, The Gaslight Anthem have thrived on many of the same characteristics, a bluesy Americana sound tinged with the delightful catchiness of pop-punk, with an all-encompassing glaze of attitude and the charming aesthetic of old-time rock ‘n roll. The personal story-telling of Brian Fallon only adds another dimension to the picture that The Gaslight Anthem paint so honestly for the listener... one of an earlier time, of Mustangs and leather jackets, of pretty girls in dresses and dreaming about New York City lights. Listening to The Gaslight Anthem is a bit like glancing into 1959; not the way it really was per se, but the way we want to remember it based on the stories we’ve been told. Sort of like watching That 70‘s Show, I presume. Accurate? Of course not. Enjoyable? Without a doubt. After the aptly titled The ’59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem were on top of the world. Popularity was booming, the band even joined their idol Bruce Springsteen on stage for an amazing show that seemed to satisfy the band even more than it did the crowd. Instead of changing directions or exploring alternate possibilities, The Gaslight Anthem follow a steady, safe trajectory for their latest. American Slang is the next logical step for the Jersey band- a composite of genuinely told stories from yesteryear that are catchier than the chicken pox, albeit a bit more polished. Needless to say, this couldn’t make me happier.
It’s believable- that seems to be the trick that makes The Gaslight Anthem’s schtick so easy to fall in love with. Fallon’s songs of youth, of “diamond Sinatras,”
exude sincerity. Were it not for the genuine feeling of American Slang, Fallon would have been tip-toeing a very thin line between success and failure. Thankfully, the air American Slang gives off without hesitation or remorse is one of charisma and an extroverted sensation, like the album is very inviting. The same band that so forcefully sang about “The kids that flash like lightning,”
not all too long ago shows no signs of let-up. The Gaslight Anthem have an uncanny ability to sing about the same themes again and again, making them seem fresher with each one-liner. The Americana feel of American Slang is ever-present, but never to the point of being driven into the ground. Rather, Fallon and crew are once again able to buttress the attitude of the music with catchy guitar lines, some quality percussion, and a shiny new polished aesthetic via the success they’ve enjoyed recently. The simplicity of the guitar lines and percussion though, seem very honest in their presentation. There’s absolutely no pretension evident. As always, the catchiness is a definite draw, but the main lure on American Slang should be chalked up to the riveting combination of a blue-collar attitude and Fallon’s voice that personifies a feeling, a time, a culture, so perfectly while simultaneously making it incredibly fun (a quality that, in my opinion, is astoundingly underrated).
In the sense that American Slang plays out as a small step forward for The Gaslight Anthem musically and thematically, the same can be said structurally. It’s fairly obvious that the band’s latest has a strikingly similar construction as The ’59 Sound, especially. Beginning with the title track, “American Slang” is a romping, catchy sign of success for The Gaslight Anthem, letting longtime fans know right off the bat that American Slang is going to be in the same vein as their last. Perhaps the most instantly gratifying songs, though, lie in the second and third spots. “Bring It On” and “Stay Lucky” are convincing pieces of evidence that point towards American Slang’s ability to fit right in with any of The Gaslight Anthem’s previous work. The way a few lines...
“But you're never gonna find it / When your knees got so weak / And it's right here in case you need it / Like when you were young / And everybody used to call you lucky / When you were young /And everybody used to call you lucky”
... have this innate ability to send shivers down my spine and place a grin on my face is something I never want to take for granted. Through the easily decipherable lyrics and innate catchiness, songs like “Stay Lucy” and “Bring It On” share a special quality that prompts, almost demands, that the listener sing along. The gruff voice of Fallon resonates throughout American Slang as it always has, but with a bit more clarity than usual due to the squeaky-clean production of the album. The Gaslight Anthem place songs at the heart of American Slang that, while not as immediately outstanding, add to the fullness of the album and never give way to a lull or down-point. Personal experience tells me these are the songs that yield more substance to uncover as the listens of American Slang rise. Ending on a softer, more personal note has always been the case with the band from Jersey, and American Slang doesn’t break tradition with “We Did It When We Were Young,” a slow-burner that gives off flames of nostalgia.
An excellent addition to The Gaslight Anthem’s discography, American Slang is yet more proof of the band’s unceasing consistency. Their ability to incorporate a lovable sincerity into every one of their Americana-tinged songs is a testament to the grand voice of Brian Fallon and the band’s knack for larger-than-life melodies. Missing from American Slang is the edginess that garnered descriptions of pop-punk or punk in the band’s past, and this can easily be attributed to the polished output on full display. Gone are the rough edges; but more importantly, the sense of candidness and straightforward style are ever-present. Yes, complaints of a deviation from The Anthem’s more punk roots are inevitable. Personally, I couldn’t be happier that one of my favorite bands have garnered the popularity to produce an album as complete and studio-worn as American Slang. It’s in this respect that American Slang provides me with both a reason to reminisce and clear-cut reasons to look forward to the future... most likely with a smile and “Stay Lucky” caught in my head on repeat.