21 September 2013

The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

This band has lead a semi-charmed kind of life in many ways.  Celebrity fans, riding high on the charts both sides of the Atlantic, sell out tours, fanatical fans and a knack at getting a song together that will send a festival field into a frenzy.  The Gaslight Anthem are a band from New Brunswick, New Jersey and come from the same area which launched the careers of Bon Jovi and The Smithereens (whoever they are) and it also have a big punk rock scene. The Gaslight Anthem's have came from a long tradition of music and they are definitely a product of the famed Jersey Shore sound and they are aiming for the heart (and not the pocket like Bon Jovi).  So after three well received albums, they released this in 2012 and it was also an international success; but is it deserved?

The first thing I get when I am listening to this album is a feeling that this could have been written in the 80's just as much as it was released in 2012.  Seriously, it feels like the soundtrack to one of the films by John Hughes from his 80's heyday.  This is not meant in a bad way, believe me this is meant as a compliment as it is a classic sound with a rich sense of emotion and timing.  Starting out with "45" the band have their stall already out, they are out to make you bounce around - not mosh, that would be too edgy for these men; a pogo may be acceptable for this album.  About 90% of this album has it heart on its sleeve.  You can take "Mae", "Keepsake" and "Mulholland Drive"; each one of them sounds like it is designed to tell a story and make the listener think of yesterdays and future tomorrows at the same time. 

For a modern release as stated above it is has a very retro feel, and this can make it seem old before its time so to speak.  The writing and performing on this album is fantastic and beyond fault, the production is faultless as well.  But it is all a little too nice, all a little too safe, all a little too generic in someways.  It does feel like I have listened to an album of teen drama anthems, car commercials and break-up soundtracks.  It is like Augustana; they sound beautiful and are good musician, but it feels just that bit too forced in places, a little bit too sincere in its delivery that it can feel a little false. The version of this album on Spotify is the deluxe release which also has two covers, one is of the Tom Petty standard "You Got Lucky"; the other is a cover of "Sliver by Nirvana. Out of the two, the former feels more natural; the later feels like they are trying too hard and it is akin to when Take That covered "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to be alternative. 

And this brings me to my case here - this album is trying to be two things at once.  It still has a punk heart in there, but it is trying to be an everyman album.  Punk is not at its best when it is trying to reach everyone, but everyman like what their hero Mr. Springsteen delivers with such ease is much better for them.  The last song on the album proper "National Anthem" is a beautiful little acoustic number which triumphs over everything else on this album.  They will be a time when they have to pick a direction other than trying to mix both styles because there is only so much they can do with their formula at the moment.  As I said it is well played and it has a sense of honest, but I am just a cynic in some ways.  I could be wrong here to be honest; it could be that their hearts are truly as widely open as the skies about our heads.  But from here, it just feels like they are trying to please everybody and really pleasing no-one (and what would I know, as their record sales say otherwise).

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit The Gaslight Anthem website here

You can visit the Gaslight Anthem's webstore here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is the video for "45"

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