mike o’hara looks at new jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem …
I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Mike, this ain’t really news. Everyone has heard of The Gaslight Anthem by now.” Hey, you’re probably right. The boys have made the jump from Jersey’s next up-and-coming band to a headlining act. They now make appearances on the likes of The Late Show With David Letterman and major music festivals here in the states and around the globe. Their second album, The ’59 Sound, brought them critical acclaim and solidified them as a band that will make people stand up and notice.
I think we ought to have another look at a band that has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Are you cool with that? Good. That’s what I was hoping you’d say.
I really feel like there are two types of people in the world. There are those who love Bruce Springsteen and those who don’t. I, for one, am thankful that The Gaslight Anthem’s front man, Brian Fallon, is a Springsteen fan. And the great thing about Fallon’s admiration for The Boss is he doesn’t allow it to make him a knock-off or second-rate version of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. In my opinion, Fallon is the perfect blend of himself with echoes of Springsteen, Paul Westerberg and Joe Strummer. His writing is the best type of poetry. It tells a story without trying to be overly heavy-handed or fodder that the new wave of hipsters would pour over and dissect it.
In an earlier article, I mentioned that punk rock isn’t dead. I made the claim that it has evolved and become stronger and much more diverse. The Gaslight Anthem is proof of this. The band is rooted in punk rock, but like all great bands, they have put their own spin on it and injected their own story and life force. The genre is now better for it. Some will argue that The Gaslight Anthem is in no way a punk band. And again I would have to say, “Yes, my leather-clad, Mohawk-sporting friend, they are.” It’s true that a good sample of their catalog doesn’t include numbers played at break-neck speed with power chords and droning backing vocals … but then again, aside from “White Riot” and a few others, the songs of The Clash don’t either.
The Gaslight Anthem’s latest album, American Slang, shows the New Brunswick, N.J., quartet moving further away from their debt record Sink Or Swim, but they aren’t trying to write hits or stray from their unique sound. It’s a more polished and mature record. Fallon, Alex Levine, Benny Horowitz and Alex Rosamilia succeed where many have failed. They remain The Gaslight Anthem and put out a record that will reach their core fan base, those who jumped on the “59 Sound Wagon” and a new crop good music lovers looking to escape the mob of hipster and auto-tuned pop acts gumming up the radio. The Gaslight Anthem is punk rock, folk rock and soulful rock. They are a band that you can’t really hold down with a single label. You listen to a song like “The Patient Ferris Wheel” (with guest vocal from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ own Dicky Barrett) and can’t help but to remember how you felt hearing that first Replacements record. The Gaslight tips their cap to the old guard, while never becoming a copycat act or glorified cover band.
My hope is that there will be more bands inspired by The Gaslight Anthem. That Brian Fallon will ignite a fire and cause another young kid to write down what he is seeing and feeling the way Springsteen did for him.
In the war to take back music from MTV, ringtones, Hollywood and the hip “In” crowd, The Gaslight Anthem is lighting the way. They are on the frontlines and doing some serious damage. If you weren’t already aware of The Gaslight Anthem. please give them a listen … and if you are already a fan, put on you MP3, CD or record player and play it loud. They just might brighten your day … a corny ending but the point is made. Right?