Monday, July 26, 2010
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM: AMERICAN SLANG
The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem first hit my eardrums in 2007. “Where have these guys been all my life?” I thought, listening to first single “Drive” stream on YouTube with a single manly tear in my eye. A perfect, spine-tingling blend of open-heart-surgery folk soul and blood-on-its-sleeves, gung-ho punk rock. Then in 2008, four track EP Señor and the Queen confirmed it: this band’s for life!
Then something strange happened. Later in 2008, The Gaslight Anthem signed with indie label SideOneDummy and released second full length The ’59 Sound. Straight away, the change was obvious. The Gaslight Anthem had crammed 10 years worth of album polishing into two. It was only their second full-length but already it sounded more like their eighth. Kerrang Magazine put them on the cover, calling them the "best new band you'll hear in 2008."
Track one and two stuck with me, then I went straight back to Sink Or Swim. The ’59 Sound didn’t even come close. The Gaslight Anthem had removed all traces of their punk rock roots, embellishing their Americana, Bruce Springsteen, easy-listening sound instead. Nothing wrong with that, the songs just lost that original spark that set my heart on fire first time around. They became "ordinary." So I didn’t expect much from American Slang. After all, once you're in there’s no going back, is there?
Predictably, American Slang passes without ever really making an impact. Everything sounds correct and well-arranged but nothing reaches in and grabs your soul. It's just polite, ordinary, safe background music to hum along to.
As soon as it does get interesting, a thick layer of polished lacquer sucks the soul right out of it. Like on "Bring It On," Brian Fallon sings "For the Romeos of town," and for a second, I felt the power of Señor and the Queen. Then there's a bongo drum sample that ruins everything. Just like Fallon's ridiculous over-singing at the end of "The Diamond Church Street Choir." Who does he think he is, Christina Aguilera?
It's weird, Señor and the Queen was a slower, less punk, more folk release as well, but there's nothing middle of the road about it - it's just not slick enough. Somehow, The '59 Sound and American Slang both miss the mark. I can't explain it. They're not band albums, they both just sound like they were recorded by muggles - they're a bit cheesier, aren't they? Still, I bet they sound awesome live.
The Gaslight Anthem playing "The '59 Sound" with Bruce Springsteen. See how much better it sounds live?