Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Review: The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

 Sometimes it's one song that has the ability to change the game for a band and put them into a higher profile and recognition than ever before. You may have recently noticed this to be the case for New Jersey punks The Gaslight Anthem, who despite being legends back home in NJ and have found a place in the hearts of many in-depth rock fans with the masterpieces of The '59 Sound and American Slang, having played the main stages of Reading & Leeds Festival, Download, Hard Rock Calling and having various shows that have seen them perform onstage with fellow NJ legend Bruce Springsteen, playing their own songs. And yet, they haven't yet recognised as a proper household name until recently with the release of new song "45". And with that and the rest of their new album Handwritten, the world of in-depth rock fans are left wondering if the band can go on to become internationally recognised megastars but remain true to their punk roots at the same time?

 Well, in honesty, you may not be wrong if you said they weren't as punk as previous stages of the band's career pointed them out to be and the likes of The '59 Sound have displayed an extra spike and rush of adrenaline in their music. Indeed, there is some truth that in musical terms it's not as big a punk album as previous efforts. However, if you choose to deny Handwritten a chance to shine on these grounds alone, you are a damn fool.

 It's been a while since we were treated to a display of pure homegrown rock and roll played with roughened riffs and steel-plated melodies that has come with the ability to put world-loving smiles on faces and tears in eyes of every listener. There's no denying that the band haven't already been able to pen incredible works of musical masterpieces in the past but the level to which they achieve it moves to a whole new level.

 Whether you are elevated to a higher sense of rock and roll ecstasy and euphoria with the energetic swing of "45" and the elder-sounding yet energetic title track or feel tempted to headbang to the likes of Mulholland Drive and Too Much Blood which prove that their punk tendencies still exist or just get down and dance to the massive hooks and grin-inducing fun provided by Howl, you're never far from a moment that won't make you feel surrounded by an overwhelming feeling of love, joy and good times past and good times to come.

 Even in the less riled-up moments, such as the tenderly written riffs of Brian Fallon and Alex Rosamilia on Biloxi and Desire revealing the guitarists' more subtle and intimate approach to what they do, as well as the eye-opening acoustic charm of National Anthem you can still get completely immersed within the high levels of emotion the band crave into their work. And even in the more adrenaline packed moments, you're never to far from identifying moments of total beauty and grace mixed with a passion for rock and roll that The Gaslight Anthem are so capable of conjuring up.

 It goes without saying that much of this visible beauty can be credited to Fallon, a truly underrated modern rock icon and possessor of possibly one of the finest voices around today. With his battered up vocals, poetic lyrics of life, love and the desire for music, and his tones of joy, melancholy and desire to create a sense of urgency can be identified with absolute clarity, which creates the perfect response of understanding from listeners, he presents himself as a musician to inspire a generation of musicians that want to make an impact in the world of rock and punk music, without even trying.

 When rock music is meant to be the kind of music that gathers large crowds to lose themselves in a state of total bliss that makes them lose all worries in life and get down to the beauty of music with one another, The Gaslight Anthem have hit the nail on the head with Handwritten. Perhaps it's not got the punk induced spike as such and perhaps their greater appearances on daytime radio and ability to headline massive venues will make the true punk enthusiasts label them as sellouts, but The Gaslight Anthem rise to their position as big players on the rock and roll landscape with the kind of grace and ability to charm and cause urges to headbang in audiences that has made the Foo Fighters the biggest rock band in the world. The kind that has made Springsteen one of the most respected names in music over the past 30 years. This New Jersey quartet have come for the crown of rock and roll. And their going to make your life more wonderful while taking it.

The Gaslight Anthem's Handwritten is out now via Mercury. The band will play at Reading and Leeds Festival on 24th and 26th August and will tour the UK in October with Blood Red Shoes.

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