A band like The Gaslight Anthem only comes along once in a while. A band that manages to capture the hearts of their fans in such a way that when you attend a Gaslight show you wouldn’t think there was any other band on the planet that was bigger, and yet until their latest album, “Handwritten” (released Tuesday), the band ha yet to release an album on a major label. No doubt fans of the band had wondered what the jump to Mercury Records might mean for the indie darlings, but after first listen, it becomes quite clear that the band has managed to completely retain their sound, while expanding and growing as a collective unit, still blaring out raspy vocals that yes, for the millionth time, do recall that of fellow jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen, but also deliver a sound that is very organic in itself.
The album opens with the rousing first single “45”, an uptempo track that channels the energy of the bands Sink or Swim LP, while the second song, and title track could have easily been something off of the bands sophomore effort The 59 Sound. The remainder of the album though seems to define it as a stand alone effort, not a copy of any previous release, but rather something very new. For instance, gone is the sometimes overly used reverb on lead singer Brian Fallon’s voice and in it’s place we get to hear his voice at it’s full potential, on what could debatably be the most challenging album the band has made vocally until this point.
On the 3rd track, Mulholland Drive, Fallon’s voice is stinging clear, delivering a potent vocal performance that makes the track easily one of the standout songs on the album. Another track, Biloxi Parish, which has seen many live versions of itself featured on YouTube as early as Winter of 2011, is a welcome addition to the album, as we get to hear the dual guitar lead in it’s studio version glory.
The album rounds itself out by saving perhaps the best song for last on the track National Anthem, a ballad on which Fallon’s haunting vocals perfectly complement simple but precise guitar work, ending the album as perfectly as possible.
The deluxe version of the album also features some great additions which include 2 covers, Nirvana’s Sliver and Tom Petty’s You Got Lucky, two slightly under the radar songs from 2 great artists, with the guys in TGA certainly not only doing the songs justice but adding their own spin to them in a great way as they’ve done with covers in the past (check out their Baba O’Reilly live performance).
All in all, the Gaslight Anthem once again manages to make an album that will certainly have lasting staying value in any collection that appreciates a great rock record. The major label jump does not seem to have hindered the sound or the growth of the band at all as the songwriting remains as good as ever and the band sounds even more polished than on American Slang. Perfect summer record for hanging out with your friends, or driving in your car alone with the windows down.