The Gaslight Anthem

American Slang

Written by: PP on 18/05/2010 22:16:37

It used to be the difficult second album, but in recent years the phenomenon previously known as the sophomore slump seems to have moved one album further, which is the case with the new Gaslight Anthem album "American Slang". "The '59 Sound" saw the band polish their gritty Middle America punk rock and slow it down towards a more distinct Bruce Springsteen inspired style, and while it was still a pretty good album overall, it suffered from a bunch of slower ballads that simply couldn't match the pure Americana rush of their early recordings - especially in a live environment. On "American Slang", the band continues their descent from the old school punk influenced, 'American Dream' band singing about Cadillacs, Lincolns and long drives in working class America towards a predictable mainstream rock band with little to offer to the non-radio listener.

It is the most pop-oriented Gaslight Anthem album so far, and largely lacks the energy and the grit that made their first two albums success stories. The title track opens the record with a guitar tone that's way too bright and Springsteen-esque for my taste, and even though Fallon's characteristic vocals are still pretty good, the "oh-ohh" backing vocals just sound overly poppy, or to put it bluntly, annoying. "Stay Young" then is a bit better with an upbeat tempo, but even here the guitars sound a little out of place, floating around at a far too high range for their own good. The chorus, however, is pure gold, so that's okay. But where things really start to fall apart are on the next couple of tracks. Starting with "Bring It On", Gaslight Anthem simply forgets they were a punk band and slow down the songs into forgettable ballads, which is a leitmotif throughout the disc. Where the songs previously contained subtle passion masked underneath Fallon's sing-along vocals, they just don't stick to your mind in the same way at all. As a result, the tracks that follow, "Diamond Church Street Choir" and especially "Queen Of Lower Chelsea" are forgettable numbers that you don't mind skipping on your way to the good section of the CD; the second half.

"Orphans" kicks up the tempo back to the medium-high level similar to a song like "The '59 Sound", and immediately the listener is treated to a much brighter, more energetic, and more enjoyable sound. "Boxer" follows suit with a high-pitch lead guitar line and some of the grabbing vocal dynamics that you may remember from older albums. Here, Fallon just sounds so much more interesting when he occasionally breaks into that scratchy-but-charming yell of his at just the right moments. "Old Haunts" then offers probably the best chorus of the album, and despite also slowing things down, the slight tempo change leading up to the chorus saves the day.

But when the band finishes the album with a flat, nothing-saying ballad "We Did It When We Were Young", riddled with horrible doubly recorded soft vs croon vocal dynamics, only after 34 minutes, the Gaslight fan is left with a feeling "really? Was that it?" That said, if you were a bigger fan of the band's balladic side in the first place and secretly wished them to sound even more like Bruce Springsteen, then there's probably something for you here. For everyone else, Fallon says it in "Old Haunts": "so don't sing me your songs about the good times, those days are gone and you should just let them go." Here's to having no expectations for their fourth album whatsoever.

Download: Old Haunts, Boxer, Orphans
For the fans of: Bruce Springsteen, Against Me! (new)
Listen: Myspace

Release date 15.06.2010

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