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To say that the boys in The Gaslight Anthem had a lot to live up to following The ’59 Sound would be a profound understatement, to say the least. Yet from the opening drum beats of the title track, “American Slang”, to the building climax of the finale, “We Did It When We Were Young,” this album resonates with with even more vibrant emotions, powerful lyrics, and catchy melodies than its predecessor. All of these only serve as evidence of a great young band maturing for the better.
One of this band’s strongest suits, especially with this album, has always been lead singer Brian Fallon’s extremely poetic way with words and especially the emotive power with which he delivers them. Comparisons have been quickly drawn to Bruce Springsteen, but I’ll go out on a limb to say that Fallon has one of the most emotionally charged voices since Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam). It’s almost as if he sings with two scales – pitch and pure energy – really punching each line home.
“Did you grow up lonesome and one of a kind ? Were your records all you had to pass the time?” asks Fallon in “Queen of Lower Chelsea.” Honestly, it’s lines like these that make his lyrics so great. They are universal without being cliche, powerful without being snobby. And if that wasn’t enough, they pull the listener in – making them an integral part of the song. With each listen I find more personal meaning in every line, and from what I gather from other people, they get their own meaning out of it too. Not only is this a key point of lyrics, but one of the basic purposes of music itself.
Concluding on “We Did It When We Were Young” is the perfect grand-slam ending to this album. Taking the ballad-esque feel of “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” (concluding track of off the Senor and the Queen EP) and slowly building up the track, it really showcases everything that is great about this band. The simple but effective guitar leads, the passion and soul, great vocal harmonies and simple but effective lyrics that are easy to relate to.
With all eyes on them, The Gaslight Anthem have proved that a little bit of maturity and evolution is nothing to be terrified of. In fact, sometimes it’s just what we needed. As the band mentioned in one of their in-studio videos posted leading up to the release of American Slang, they are really looking to put the soul back into music. If that is their mission statement, than they are and even bigger success than they already seem to be.