This record is like, Bruce Springsteen. No, really. The frontman, Brian Fallon, sounds like the Boss himself, except minus the growl and tear that develops in the Boss's singing.
But that's not really only it. Both the Gaslight Anthem and the Boss utilize the same themes, perhaps recycled a whole lot, but still just as powerful: songs about late night films, old cars, the whole bit. So why am I writing about this record, when I could be writing about the Boss himself?
Well, first off I don't feel like addressing the Boss himself yet. That'll be later. But this is a damn good record. One reviewer put it this way (credit is due, yeah?):
Bruce Springsteen went and saw the Ramones once, and was inspired to write his hit, "Hungry Heart," which he was going to give to them. But his manager, I think, wanted Bruce to keep it, because Bruce had often given away #1 hits. Lo and behold, he kept it, and his first #1 hit. But what if he had went ahead and given it to the Ramones?
And if the Ramones were doing Bruce, that's sort of what the Gaslight Anthem would sound like. They're technically a punk band, but they don't sing "punk" in the typical sense: not like the Sex Pistols with the nihilism, not like the Clash with their activism. They channel the furious roar of Bruce Springsteen, who rides a middle-class vibe. Bruce's characters are sad and/or mad with their current position in society: they care about the situation they're in, but they're not going to create a riot over it...they will just cope the best they can and get the hell out of town. Stories are carved through the stories of middle America. That's what the Gaslight Anthem go for here. So while they apparently play the whole Warped scene, they don't really fit at all.
And for all the imagery and lyric material that they plumb fearlessly, for all its almost cheesy language and abuse of clichés, it is not they are improperly applied. Clichés are at their worst when applied poorly, or done without good intentions. When Fallon sings on this record, you get a true sense of sincerity. There's no sense of triteness, no sense of being sly, just all serious, all there. When you hear him lift straight from Springsteen's "No Surrender," it feels like it belongs there.
For being such a modern record, its construction implies a much older age than, well, two years, give or take a bit. There are no indicators of any sort of modernity: just the old way of going about it, pure muscle, feeling, integrity. All the parts are simple enough, which also evokes those days closely following and around Springsteen's Born to Run era. So that's why this record should have really been released back then. But since it's here and not there, it's a brilliant and nostalgic trip back to those days.