New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem’s latest album, Handwritten, is one of the rare albums that i was counting down the days until it was released. Having been a fan of the band since their earliest EP, Senor and The Queen, the emotions I had prior to listening to the first note of this album was similar to seeing a friend who you hadn’t talked to in awhile, which could go one of two ways: be great as if nothing has changed exactly how you remembered if not better, or you could realize your memory and thoughts of that person are actually better than they really are and be disappointed.
Having already heard the first single, “45,” I had an idea that I wouldn’t be entirely disappointed in the album, but as I sat on my cold basement floor and waited for the needle to drop on the vinyl, I couldn’t help but hold my breathe.
Making it through the previously mentioned, I was slightly calmer when it came to the title track “Handwritten.” I could breathe easy, the boys nailed it. Lead singer Brian Fallon’s opening line “ Pull it out, turn it up, what's your favorite song? That's mine, I've been crying to it since I was young”, shows just how much songs truly mean to him. This is a common theme throughout all the band’s earlier work: love and appreciation for music and records. This song easily joins that group lyrically. At about the 2:40 mark, there’s a definite Bruce Springsteen moment, which not only is great to hear, but also shows the influence of that the greats have on this band. It also doesn’t hurt that they worked with super producer Brendan O’Brien on this record. They are no strangers to comparisons to many of their inspirations, but it is apparent on many of the tracks on this album that they have made it their own and are leaving their mark in classic American rock that started from a punk base.
Continuing, both “Here Comes My Man” and “Mulholland Drive” fit nicely into what it expected from the band. There is some nice guitar work throughout “Mulholland Drive” that helps the listener focus and appreciate these musicians’ talents.
“Keepsake” takes you into a little bit of a darker bluesy place with the mix keeping Brian’s vocals balanced with the guitars and drums rather than keeping his vocals in front for several of the other songs. It is a nice change up within the album's overall structure.
“Too Much Blood”,with an intro that sounds a lot like Tom Petty, is the perfect song to lead into the much talked “Howl.” Clocking in at just over a 2 minute song this is the one to blast on the radio and just dance around. This is why music is fun. I can’t wait to see this song performed live and you can surely bet I will be in the very middle of the crowd dancing to it.
Having recently caught a live stream of one of their recent shows, I’d already seen them perform the next track, “Biloxi Parish,” which is a great song that demonstrates what these can guys do and how well they do it. This is what sets them apart from other punk bands.
“Desire” highlights Fallon’s ability to be self reflective and unapologetic. This is apparent with the line: “And some men spend their lives chasing the accolades of pride, but that’s just never crossed my mind.” “Mae” is a song that evokes nostalgia like only a Gaslight song can do. The hidden gem of the closing track “National Anthem” highlights Fallon’s hauntingly shaking emotion filled vocals with beautiful strings. It's as if this placement of the song is an extra thank you for the fans. Fallon’s vocals have the ability to hit a place in your heart that makes it feel as though he has written each word just so you would not feel alone.
On the iTunes version, there are extra bonus tracks that weren’t on the vinyl. I leave those for you to experience on your own. Overall, this album fit perfectly within the Gaslight catalog without being boring or completely expected. With their earlier work, the Jersey boy have shown they aren’t afraid to change and grow, but with this album they have hit their stride and show they know how to do what they do better than any other band out there right now. Go get this record and enjoy it. Any fan of music can hear the pure love these guys have for the art in each and every note.
Photo by Danny Clinch