Review Summary: I was a man of great sympathy when I loved you baby, but tonight all my sympathy is gone
When the Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang
was released last year, it left Brian Fallon in a vulnerable position. Despite the fact that Gaslight front man was nearly invincible following the band’s first two releases, the third ever so slightly brought Fallon back down to earth, as it was dubbed by Fallon as the most “personal” of the Gaslight records. When a record becomes too personal it closes some listeners off, sacrifices the relatable dynamic, and exposes the world to concealed stories that weren’t easily disclosed. Compelling, but ultimately lacking the impact of the debut and sophomore releases, American Slang
may very well have fallen victim to this syndrome, exposing that level of susceptibility. Yet, vulnerability as we have come to realize with Elsie
, is not always a negative connotation.
Considering the tours of the Gaslight Anthem, studio work and live appearances with Chuck Ragan, and the conception of his new side-project, Brian Fallon has been a workhorse throughout the past year. Now joining forces with friend and guitarist Ian Perkins, Fallon has established a new channel to convey his sincere, Americana-laden tales under the designation the Horrible Crowes. The debut Elsie
, is Fallon’s most focused, lyric-oriented release of his illustrious career; subtlety exploring the ring before delivering its various haymakers in the form of “Behold the Hurricane,” “Go Tell Everybody,” and ultimately “Blood Loss.” A slight departure from the Springsteenian punk rock of the Gaslight Anthem, Fallon and Perkins’ efforts translate into a calmer, subdued atmosphere, which is accentuated through the bass-driven “Sugar” and the casual “Witnessed a Crime.” The former plays the role of tone-setter for Elsie
, patiently easing into Fallon’s compelling one-liners such as “Nobody knows you like I…do” and “Who do you think that you’re kidding this time?”. The music takes the back seat to Fallon’s lyricism in this respect, utilized to intensify the effect throughout Elsie
. No track is better suited to support this statement than “Blood Loss,” the record’s penultimate piece. Like “Here’s Looking at You Kid,” but with a more potent punch, “Blood Loss” highlights Fallon’s most distressing encounters with love and loss, building momentum until his raspy vocals facilitate the pungent climax.
Although much of Elsie
features a much more tranquil approach to vocals than we are used to, Fallon is letting loose at isolated circumstances such as with “Go Tell Everybody” and “Mary Ann.” Whether it is to institute variety into Elsie
or to demonstrate that Fallon isn’t to waver from his norm for too long, the explosive vocals provide the record with a raw, fervent angle. His persistent admiration for Bruce Springsteen is still so apparent here, as the bluesy “Mary Ann” almost serves as a more raucous “Cover Me” tribute, with fiery leads and forceful vocals presenting the track as one of the record’s underscores.
Like with American Slang
, Brian Fallon’s debut with the Horrible Crowes is a vulnerable one, exposing his deepest personal tales. Yet, as American Slang indicated a trivial misstep in his career, Elsie
takes these evocative stories and redirects them into a serene, more solemn sound than with the Gaslight Anthem. Elsie
channels this with some of Fallon’s greatest accomplishments to date including “Blood Loss” and “Sugar” among others, all of which elevate the record to a powerful and captivating level. The music itself, while secondary to Fallon’s vocals and lyricism, does a tremendous job of complementing and ultimately emphasizing these outstanding aspects. Whether this is revealed through the charming “Crush” or the organ-laden “I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together,” Ian Perkins contributions on Elsie
are nothing short of exceptional; fusing each individuals’ efforts together to craft one of 2011’s greatest treasures.