The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

I’ve wanted to post about this album for a while, but just couldn’t find the right words.  I know what ever I say about this album, other fans are going to disagree.  Like many others, I too, am a Brian Fallon fan boy.  While traveling to Gettysburg, PA and then New York this past weekend I think I now know what I want to say.  Side note, I would like to thank Blacklist Royals for the comment on my post they left, and for also posting my blog on their Facebook.  They truly are genuine musicians, and I can’t stress that I hope everyone checks them out.

I don’t know what it is about New Jersey.  People either love it or hate it.  My biggest pet peeve is people that say New Jersey is a dirty and smelly place.  I hate to tell people this, but your town isn’t any better.  Even if I wasn’t born in New Jersey I would still have Jersey pride, because New Jersey has the most character out of all the states.  Trust me I have been around this country and New Jersey tops them all.  Also, New Jersey pumps out some of the best bands and musicians.  Some of my favorite musicians are from there.  Exhibit A, The Gaslight Anthem.

I will admit I was late to jumping on the Gaslight bandwagon; I got into them right before American Slang came out.  It took me a while but eventually I was hooked.  Brian Fallon has a unique way of describing things.  He has a way of painting a picture with his lyrics.  I would go as far as saying he is a modern day poet.  I remember studying his lyrics, because there are an abundance of references and hidden meanings in his words.  You don’t just get an album when you listen to the Gaslight Anthem, you get the National Treasure.  You are searching for the meanings to these songs, the people, and the places.  Unfortunately, this album falls short in the lyric content.  (Please don’t kill me!)

When I listen to this album, I see it as a reintroduction to the world.  Switching to a major label, and knowing that your music will now reach more people than ever, what will your album sound like?  I think Gaslight Anthem was going for a rock album, and they accomplished that.  Having Brendan O’Brien behind the board producing, it is clear.  This producer has produced huge names in the rock genre.  Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Bruce Springsteen, and the list goes on.  It is clear that Gaslight Anthem’s influences on this album were rock music, especially Pearl Jam.  Also I have notice Brendan O’Brien likes to use the “whoa oh whoa” in songs, and this is prevalent on this album.

I am going to come out and say that this isn’t a bad album; it is a really good album.  Is it my favorite by them?  No, but this album wasn’t about the lyrics.  This album was about the musicianship.  It was Gaslight Anthem showing the world that they can write great melodies that can reach the masses, and not be pigeonholed as just a “punk” band.

I remember when I first heard “45”.  I was scared actually.  I knew that with a small band moving to a major, it could mean their music would change for the worst to please the big wigs, or not change and be let go quickly.  After hearing the single and the first song on Handwritten, I knew Gaslight Anthem wasn’t giving in.  This song is the Gaslight Anthem sound with Brian’s lost love lyrics.

“Let her go,
Let somebody else lay at her feet.”

The song “Handwritten” is a song that I think is for the fans.  The topic of discussion is having a love for music and always being there for you no matter what.  This song screams Pearl Jam to me.  I can see Eddie Vedder taking a stab at this at a karaoke bar.  Following “Handwritten” is my favorite off this album, “Here Comes My Man”.  Using the women’s perspective of a failed relationship is a good change of imagery.  As I said before I like storytelling lyrics, and Brian Fallon always does a good job at that.  I also think this is an interesting way to be creative as a man, because we will never know what it is like to be in the women’s shoes in a relationship.  If you like these lyrics, I suggest checking out Jimmy Eat World’s Invented, that album takes on a women’s perspective through the whole album.

“Mulholland Drive” is a song that shows that Gaslight Anthem can play guitar as Alex Rosamilia plays some great guitar solos.  This is the sound I think Gaslight Anthem was always trying to reach.  The chorus of this song reminds me of something Tom Petty would play including the lyrics.

“Would you miss me if I was gone and the simple things were lost?
Would you ever wait on me to say,
Oh, that I’d just die if you ever took your love away.”

Side B of the album shows off Gaslight Anthem’s musicianship more than Side A.  “Too Much Blood” is a dirty southern rock sounding song with some heavy to soft guitar playing.  “Howl” is my least favorite song by Gaslight Anthem.  I felt this song was a filler song, for it was short and doesn’t seem to fit the mood of the album.  I think the bonus song “Blue Dahlia” should have replaced this song.

“Biloxi Parish” is a rock anthem, from the chorus to the sound of the drums.  This song is meant to be played in arena and as Gaslight Anthem’s opening song to the show.  I think this song would get the crowd moving and jumping with the first chord.  My second favorite song on this album is “Mae”.  Brian Fallon finally shows that he can still describe the most beautiful pictures.  My vision of this song is the sun setting on the New Jersey shoreline.  I can’t forget that this song finally shows off Alex Levine’s excellent bass playing right before the pre-chorus.  I have been waiting for a good bass line from him, and this shows he can execute that well.

“Stay the same don’t ever change,
‘cause I’d miss your ways,
With your Bette Davis eyes,
And your mama’s party dress.”

I feel the album should’ve ended with “Mae”, for I am not a big fan of “National Anthem”.  A good song, but I think it should’ve been a B side song.  Either way this album is good, and I don’t want another ’59 Sound, because bands need to experiment and love what they are doing.  This album was for Gaslight Anthem.  They wanted to play what they wanted to play and not what everyone wanted to hear.  I am not going to give up on them, because this album is good.  It isn’t like they changed their sound that much.  They aren’t playing ska or dub step.  I am glad that they are making a name for themselves and that people are starting to notice them.  In actuality, that’s all I want to see happen to the bands I listen to.

I am impressed by the packaging of this album.  I think Gaslight Anthem had a hand in what they wanted out of it.  It is a gatefold with some excellent studio pictures and a digital download card.  The first pressing, about 1,000 I believe, is clear blue.  It is also 180gram, which blows me away.  For a major label release, and a newly signed band, I am very impressed.  It sounds and looks great.  Lets hope the next release has some swirls or mixed colors.

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