Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
SideOneDummy Records

You know that feeling of being super excited for something, only to be disappointed? That's how I felt when I watched the Seinfeld finale. I was a huge fan of the show, and when it ended, I thought that the finale was a cop out and I hated it. However, after watching it now-countless times, and seeing how it fits in with the rest of the series, I've grown to love it. Even close to ten years later, I can still watch it and find something new that I love about it.

The Gaslight Anthem is similar to Seinfeld. Much like early episodes of the classic sitcom, their first record showed promise, but had some bumps along the way. Towards the middle, they blew up and received near-unanimous praise for their new breed of sitcom and teaser EP Senor and the Queen. And finally, at the end of the line, Seinfeld and the Gaslight Anthem ended with a record that eschewed expectation, but tied everything together well.

The most recent Gaslight record, The '59 Sound, was high at my biggest disappointments of the year list when I first listened to it. Now, a month later, I know it front to back, and feel like it may even be stronger than their debut full length. Much like Seinfeld did in it's finale, the Gaslight makes countless references and illusions to what brought them their newfound success on this record. Lyrical references to Maria, driving, the radio, and the beach give a familiar feeling and bring the first records to mind without completely rehashing them.

The record starts off with "Great Expectations," which wouldn't have been my choice for an opener, but the title track comes second, and is a great choice for a first single. It's catchy, memorable, and is hard to deny as a catchy, classic rock song. "Film Noir" is the first song to really break up the mid-tempo rock that causes some of the first songs to blend together, and has a slow, dark feel to it (ala film noir), and shows the record branching out. Oddly enough, I feel like the beginning of the record is the weakest, and it gains steam as it moves on.

Singer Brian Fallon has a nice knack for stroytelling, which he has stepped up on this record. He often draws comparisons to Springsteen, and while this is accurate, his voice occasionally brings to mind a more rock and roll, less soul Joe Cocker. As the record progresses, the styles of the record expand out, with "Casanova Baby" providing a very old time rock and roll feel, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" slowing down with a logical bluesy feel, and "The Backseat" starting off almost like a Killers song, with rapid fire snare rolls.

As I've already said, the record ends much stronger than it begins, and the last two or three songs may be my favorite, with "Here's Looking At You, Kid" taking the stripped down acoustic feel they touched on with "Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts," and really nailing it. I think this album could really use a re-sequencing to break it up a bit and possibly add to the flow of it. This is one of my biggest complaints with this record. I also find the recording of this record frustrating. Brian's voice has a strange echo sound to it, which takes away from a lot of the impact of it. No recording has yet to do his voice justice, as live he sounds much stronger. I think the guitars also need to be beefed up in spots. There's a great, crunchy guitar sound used to in "The '59 Sound" for the pre-chorus that could be used to give a bit more energy and life to some of the faster songs, instead of the slightly bland guitar tone with very little bite.

As I've come to love the Seinfeld finale that originally bummed me out tremendously, this record has grown on me to the point that it will certainly be in my tops of the year, which was not what I thought upon the first few listens. I can see this band getting huge on this record IF people are willing to look past it's fairly different sound. It's definitely a much more rock and roll record, which is great, but I could see a lot of "punks" not getting it. This band has worked hard for everything they've gotten so far, and put out three quality records so far, so I hope they get the success they deserve.


The Captain said...

I like the review. I gave this album a B+. It was my first experience with The Gaslight Anthem. Check out my review at

The Captain said...

By the way, I put a link to your page on my blog. Let me know if thats cool -

Music Guru said...

I dig Gaslights new album, it is a little less gruff than their first, but it is a great album nonetheless. It is punk enough for those of us who had a mohawk once, but accessible enough for someone who doesn't have a sleeve of tat's and angst to spare.

Witz said...

This was the first Gaslight album I heard and I am now completely obsessed with them. I can definitely see, though, how it would be tough to go from Sink or Swim or Senor & the Queen and then hear The '59 Sound. Still, so many good tracks-- I'm really glad Bruce Springsteen decided to go a little punk.