Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem – “The B-Sides”

The haunting opening strains of She Loves You is a fitting tip off to where Gaslight Anthem’s ‘B-Sides’ album will take you. Made up mainly of acoustic takes of previously released rockers from their studio albums (except for ‘Handwritten’), this record highlights the more soulful, folksy side of this popular Jersey foursome.

Two live acoustic versions of the songs The ’59 Sound and Queen of the Lower Chelsea are slow burn versions of two of Gaslight’s more lyrically depressing death themed tunes. They’re good takes and better paced fits than the originals, considering the subject matter.

Now I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of Peal Jam. Actually, that’s not entirely truthful. Truthfully, I fucking hate Pearl Jam. I always have. I think they were just about the worst thing to come crawling out of the grunge explosion and the fact that they’re still around making music is silly and surprising. But whatever. It’s easy enough to just ignore bands you hate.     That being said, one thing that’s always kind of irked me about Gaslight Anthem, in their rockier moments, is when Brian Fallon’s voice gets a little too Vedder-y for me. A song Gaslight’s been covering for a few years now is Jam’s State of Love and Trust. And if you’re a fan of Pearl Jam, let me be fair and tell you this: this live version on B-Sides is one hell of a cover. It’s such a good cover in fact, that if you listen to one of Pearl Jam’s many live versions and then Gaslight’s back to back, they sound like virtually the same song. It’s uncanny and impressive, though for my personal tastes, it would have been nice to hear a version that veers away from the original a little more.

I do love The Rolling Stones however and Gaslight’s crisp, cruising cover of the band’s Tumbling Dice is one of the best songs on B-Sides.

They also offer up a very ethereal version of the Fake Problems tune Songs For Teenagers. Fake Problems is a very Gaslight Anthem-sounding band, or vice versa, as Fake Problems actually formed a year before Gaslight. Either way, they sound alike and have toured extensively together and as such their songs are ripe for the covering by each other.

Great Expectations and Antonia Jane are two acoustic cuts from a live radio show. Great Expectations, originally from ‘The ’59 Sound’ is a particularly somber version of the more rambunctious original, but it has a nice vibe for kicking back after a long day at the races.

The version of American Slang that appears on ‘B-Sides’ is actually a very raw, desperate sounding affair that fits its man on the edge lyrics beautifully.

Boxer, also originally from the ‘American Slang’ album is easily the most interesting track on the album simply because of how different it sounds from the original. The band goes much farther than just a straight acoustic port, adding all kinds of strange, tribal sounding instruments and background harmonies. It’s an exciting reinterpretation, better than the original.

Once Upon A Time, a cover of the beautiful Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise song is a faithful rendition which fits Gaslight’s sound and Fallon’s vocals nicely.

‘The B-Sides’ could have just as easily been called ‘Acoustic Cuts’ or something as that’s more or less what it is.  A few more originals and a couple unreleased songs would’ve filled out the set list nicely, but I still wouldn’t go so far as to call the album a cash grab. All of the band’s original songs on here are different than the versions on the albums and it’s nice to have the covers all in one place.

For Gaslight fans who don’t already own this stuff, this is a no brainer purchase, for casual fans or haters…why are you reading this?

4/5 Stars

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