Review Summary: The Gaslight Anthem perform some classic tracks! How did we all miss this?
December is a month notorious for having under-promoted albums slip by, as music lovers worldwide hurry to compile year-end lists. How that is relevant to the mid-October release of The Gaslight Anthem's 'iTunes Session' EP is beyond me. I mean, it's The Gaslight Anthem... Performing some all-time classic rock tracks. How on Earth did we all miss this? Sure, it's not as if this particular edition of the digital download series requires a great deal of words to sell it, but still... It's recorded by a band who is yet to release anything even resembling sub-par, and all it takes is a cursory glance at that track-list - which contains four interesting covers as well as a few other odds and ends - to be sold. The only other thing that really needs to be mentioned is that this is anything but a cheap radio station recording, since it is professionally compiled, and sounds crisp, clear & detailed.
Undoubtedly of most interest are the four masterfully selected cover versions contained within, and in each case The Gaslight Anthem find that delicate combination of respectfully paying homage to the original, while simultaneously adding their own twist to some clear influences. On The Who's 1971 classic 'Baba O'Riley', The New Jersey quartet come closest to biting off more than they can chew, yet the way in which the dual guitar work stands in for the organ and synth segments is fascinating. The impressive backing vocal hook of 'Refugee' clearly signifies Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as a strong inspiration, while the seemingly odd selection of Pearl Jam's 'State of Love and Trust' turns out to be a surprising masterstroke. Closing the EP is a cover of 1964s 'House of the Rising Sun', originally recorded by English outfit The Animals. Here, lead vocalist Brian Fallon appears to have swallowed an extra pack of razor blades to bring a dose of the band's punk roots to a true blues-rock classic.
The remainder of the EP almost seems like a bonus, with a stripped down version of 'American Slang' track 'Boxer' recalling Fallon's side-project The Horrible Crowes, while the opposite direction is taken on early cut 'The Navesink Banks' (only available via iTunes) since its climax incorporates a full band element. Last, but not least, comes 'Our Father's Sons', a re-recorded demo from 'The '59 Sound' sessions. It is here where The Gaslight Anthem showcase their lyrical capabilities, with their Springsteen like storytelling proving utterly compelling.
What it all amounts to is another stellar release for this exceptionally talented band. While many will treat it as a stop-gap EP as we await their much-anticipated fourth full-length release (and major label debut), 'iTunes Session' deserves to stand on its own, since The Gaslight Anthem are not too far from their best here. The rhythm section of Alex Levine and Benny Horowitz is as sturdy as ever, Fallon's gravelly vocals captivate, while the lead guitar lines of Alex Rosamilia continuously mesmerize. Yep, it's The Gaslight Anthem... and how dare we overlook any of their stunning work.
Recommended Tracks: House of the Rising Sun, State of Love and Trust & Refugee.