The Gaslight Anthem – “American Slang”

Heart is something that tends to get overlooked in some modern day music. Songs about going to clubs, or driving fast cars, or worrying about how you look all lack that essential thing that makes good music completely believable. Heart is something that can make or break a band just starting out, and it is what can keep some bands going for years. One thing that The Gaslight Anthem aren’t lacking in is heart, and that’s what makes them such an interesting band.

The Gaslight Anthem have been heralded as pioneers of the blues-punk genre in their home of New Jersey, and indeed around much of the globe that they have toured. Their influences have been clear from the very start of their career – Miles Davies and many other blues legends, punk influences of all kinds, and above all Bruce Springsteen who they have been fortunate enough to share a stage with as well. Yes, it’s clear where The Gaslight Anthem get their sound from, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something unique. In fact on this, their third studio album American Slang, their own style of blending the heart and soul of blues and the honesty and drive of punk-rock is very much in the foreground.

Their last album The ’59 Sound was a huge success for Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilia, Ben Horowitz and Alex Levine collectively known as The Gaslight Anthem and truly brought their name into the limelight for a lot of people. However, it was obvious that on The ’59 Sound they were following in the paths of a lot of their influences in their style, but American Slang shows that they are more keen to break out and create something entirely new than they would otherwise have let on.

The album starts with the first single and title track American Slang, which is a beautiful song to start with and Brian Fallon’s unmistakeable vocals bring the lyrics a sense of honesty, even though the guitar refrain sounds just a smidge like The Edge from U2. But it’s alright, because the next few songs follow suit and create a lively sense of trueness, like all the lyrics have been something each member has experienced whilst writing the album. Bring It On is probably the one song on the album where their Springsteen-esque sound comes to the foreground, but again, this is not a bad thing as it smacks of punk-style too with its lyrics mid-way through of “wait a minute, wasn’t I good to you? You don’t know what’s good for you”, blending together their love of Springsteen and the attitude of old school punk in a perfect harmony.

Most of the first lot of tracks up to The Queen of Lower Chelsea suffer the downfall of having a very similar tempo and time signature, despite how different their styles might be, which means that some of them start to become a bit samey and predictable. That all changes with Orphans, though, which mixes everything up into something a lot more bouncy and fast paced with its chorus of “And the lonesome all understand. With their choirs in my head, we were orphans before we were ever your sons of regret”. Orphans leads into the albums second single Boxer, and its story of knowing someone is better than they are shows even more of the heart that’s there behind every Gaslight Anthem song in its swinging riffs that you can’t help but stop and take notice of.

Second to last song The Spirit of Jazz is rather ironically the most punk-rock track of the album, and bursts outwards with bouncy, punchy punk riffs that truly shows more of the true-blue punk rock side of The Gaslight Anthem. Final track We Did It When We Were Young is a considerably slower end to a somewhat faster paced album, but it’s still an emotionally charged song that ends the album in a fitting way.

Yes, heart and soul is definitely something that The Gaslight Anthem have an abundance of. They know where they came from, who their influences are, and what they do best and they do it with such honesty and conviction that you don’t once feel like you’re listening to something fake or manufactured. The Gaslight Anthem have such an air of honesty about their songs because they truly believe in what they are singing about, and that is what gives them the heart behind their lyrics that you can’t help but love. If you haven’t checked out The Gaslight Anthem before, then it’s about time you did, because this album is very hard not to like!

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