The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for these guys, as the way they exude the best of classic Springsteen has made their last two albums pure gold. Brian Fallon is one of the best storytellers around; always being vague enough to provide a sense of mystery and allure to the tales he weaves. Handwritten is a solid album that continues in that vein, even if it doesn’t reach the heights that the previous two had. The title track is a pure rocker that features lines like “and we only ride by the moon, every word handwritten”, and contain standard Gaslight themes of longing and the loss of youth. The first single “45” is a more standard rock song buried in nostalgia that doesn’t impress the way “American Slang” or “The Boxer” did the last time around. High points come when they expand their sound, going for a more vintage feel with the “Sha la la “ chorus of “Here Comes My Man”, or the short punk of “Howl”. Songs like “Mulholland Drive” are classic Gaslight with choruses like “I’d just die if you ever took your love away”. The themes here aren’t incredibly deep or hard to digest, but they’re often so classic and memorable that anyone can relate. That is part of what makes Gaslight so great. However, there are a few missteps here. “Too Much Blood” veers way to close to Toadies style grunge, especially with Fallon’s awkward yowls in the verses combined with the heavy alt rock guitars in the intro. Other times it feels like he’s straining on the lyrics, most so on “Biloxi Parish” when he repeats “I’ll be with you through the dark so you do not go through the dark alone”. They redeem themselves with soaring hooks on “Desire”, and on the tender acoustic ballad of “National Anthem” (that doesn’t feature A$AP Rocky as JFK). The song expands on themes of religion, forgiveness, love, and boils them all down into a powerful tune. Handwritten is a strong album that will appease fans of the band, but it does seem as if they’re reusing the same ideas over and over. Hopefully they’ll change things up for the best next time around, but for now we can enjoy something familiar and solid.
- David Sackllah