Review Summary: Did you hear your favorite song one last time?
Let’s get one thing straight. If listening to “The ’59 Sound” doesn’t immediately entrench you in an overwhelming avalanche of nostalgia, you haven’t lived. Americana based rock is rooted in two things; the longing for better days, and trying to prescribe the feeling that you shouldn’t care about the future, even though you are incredibly worried about it; if you weren’t, you wouldn’t crave the past in such a colossal fashion. These Americana concepts are usually transcribed through hero worship, both real and fictional. Heroes like Bruce Springsteen. Mythical heroes like the guys who wear leather jackets in back alleys, smoking cigarettes while hitting on big breasted women in bright red dresses and diamond soled shoes. They might toss you a wink as you walk the night in a dead man’s town, despite your well-founded fear they also might screw your girlfriend down by the river’s edge. Your best bet is wink right back, only make sure you're driving by with the top rolled down on a Saturday night. Whether one has experienced these specific events or not, hearing about them makes us immediately recall the raging glory days of youth, the sh*tty present and foreboding future be damned. This is the reason Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger are legends. It’s also the reason that “The ’59 Sound” is one of the greatest rock albums ever crafted.
The fact Brian Fallon and the Gaslight Anthem rip off Springsteen worse than Airbourne apes AC/DC is entirely irrelevant. The fact the closing song “Backseat,” plays on titles and pieces of lyrics from Springsteen tunes of yore doesn’t f*cking matter. The fact that Fallon delivers his longing musings on Bobby Jean, Sally Sue, and the way “the night moves” in the same understated gravelly delivery as The Boss and Seger does not deter from its greatness. Why? Because no album has ever pulled off its intended concept as well as “The ’59 Sound” does. Make no mistake, this concept, right down to the album cover, is wistful nostalgia focused on better days, even if they weren’t better at all. It just happens to feel that way. The only possible way this can be effectively transcribed sonically is through the usage of character and metaphor driven lyrics, enormous driving melodic hooks, hand claps, whoa-ohs, and guitars tuned to awesome. The proof is in the hook, the chorus, THOSE moments. Delivered by the Gaslight Anthem, those moments are in abundance, the atmosphere manifesting as a full-on clinic in fist pumping, longing, nostalgia drenched energy. Brian Fallon doesn’t just fall out of bed and piss excellence, he promptly gets up and takes a sh*t on almost every other Americana record crafted.
When “Great Expectations” begins its flamboyant three minute ride through relationship memory lane, you will be really pissed off if you’re not in a car. The memories of ex-wives and abandonments might be painful; they might make you smile, but only because you are listening to one of the best punk songs ever recorded. The title track will recall images of Grandparents and friends passed, both concepts that should shred anyone with a semblance of a soul. Fortunately, the atmosphere of the song is firmly entrenched in the dictionary, filed under “driving melodic hook,” and also has probably the most infectious bridge you’ve heard. Like the majority of “The ’59 Sound," the genius is in the simplicity, and its staying power is rooted in sheer relation, more importantly, YOUR ability to relate. We all known damn well that “young boys and girls ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night,” but chances are we know someone who did. When “Here’s Lookin' At You Kid” conjures images of “girl’s eyes cutting you to ribbons,” you’ve been there. Hell, you’re probably there right now. If Fallon hadn’t already pulled it off in the album’s first three tracks, it would be damn near impossible to write better choruses found in “The Patient Ferris Wheel” and “High Lonesome.” Even the albums weakest points (Miles Davis and Cowgirls, which aren’t weak at all) have hair-raising moments that bring you back right when you might be starting to doubt Fallon’s infallibility.
At this point, the Gaslight Anthem has already grabbed you, and there really isn’t a chance of resisting. Your only chance is to take Fallon’s hand through the rest of the ride through the night, and metaphorically speaking, you’ll be fully ready for GLA to take you home once the final chord subsides. The next time you find yourself in a car or standing in driving rain, Fallon wants you to think of Jersey. He wants you to think of your past, embrace it, learn from it, and then think about it again. Forget the future, this is about the best times of our lives, whether they actually were or not. But damn it if it doesn’t sound like it.