Sometimes it’s hard for a band to change pace midway through their career. It’s a big risk that can propel a band to the next level of stardom or is the kiss of death and all but puts the kibosh on their hopes and dreams. Having been signed to SideOneDummy for their past two albums, New Jersey punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem put that theory to the test when they signed with Mercury Records before they began recorded their fourth album, Handwritten.
There were a lot of expectations for the quartet. Firstly, they’d built up a considerable amount of goodwill by touring with the likes of Social Distortion plus sharing the stage and receiving a ringing endorsement from fellow New Jersey native the one and only Bruce Springsteen. Their live shows are energetic, passionate and are pretty much everything you’d want in a band. They aren’t intimidated of the big stage (shown when they invited Springsteen to share the stage with them and he reciprocating) and are comfortable on-stage to put on a memorable show that resonates with tens of thousands of fans.
Even with those credits, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing to take chances. After slowing things down a bit on their last album, American Slang, they decided to pick things up again on their latest album, though they’re less punk and more complete now.
Heading into the studio, the band knew there was pressure on them to make a killer album. The successes of their past two records made Handwritten the most anticipated of the band’s career. That didn’t faze them though. Working with legendary producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) who has worked with some of their biggest influences, the band headed to Nashville to crank out their fourth album.
In 11 songs, as we said a few weeks ago, the quartet blended ‘60s soul, ‘70s stadium rock, 80s hardcore and ‘90s grunge to make a memorable album. For this album, the band tried a different songwriting approach. They weren’t entirely reliant on singer Brian Fallon to come up with all of the ideas, and the entire band contributing to the songwriting. This new process paid with the band completing all of the original songs in a month, leaving a week to have fun with B-sides and covers.
“Brendan taught us a ton about songwriting and recording as a band,” Fallon said in the band’s bio. “The whole experience was amazing. That’s the guy that recorded Pearl Jam, that’s the guy that recorded Bruce Springsteen, that’s the guy that did Rage Against The Machine; and that’s the guy you want to say ‘It’s good’, because when he says it’s good, that’s when it’s good.”
Needless to say, the album has been well received by fans and most critics. It’s charting well internationally in both digital and physical forms, a tough task to do these days. Fallon has spoken publicly about wanting the band to get to new heights, and eventually performing at Giants Stadium (sorry won’t call it MetLife Stadium and that’s what he said as well) as a headliner. If the band keeps moving in the direction they are, without fear and worries about what people say about them while writing kickass songs, though difficult, they may be on their way. As 20,000 at Lollapalooza can attest, The Gaslight Anthem is a must-see band that can write great tunes while putting on a ferocious live show.
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