Sound — 7
When you look at some of the really massive rock bands of decades gone by, particularly ones who've produced hit after hit with the exact same formula, you have to wonder how they get away with it. AC/DC, Kiss, even Metallica, to an extent...all these bands get by on a simple chemistry that defies logical explanation but fills stadiums to this very day. Whether or not The Gaslight Anthem will reach that level of stardom remains to be seen, but they've certainly got that feel about them. Listening to their last two efforts is like listening to audio nostalgia, whether you were there for the real '59 sound' or not; you've heard all these songs hundreds of times before but still you remain compelled by the synergy. Funnily enough, Gaslight are not ones to repeat themselves too much. With their new level of commercial recognition - not half thanks to Bruce Springsteen joining them on stage at Glastonbury last year to play their own song - they could have easily rewritten Great Expectations' ten times over and called it a record, but American Slang' does its own thing. Solid rock n roll rhythms are used as foundations for Alex Rosamilia's soulful, lick-based accompaniment to the vocal, the kingpin. It's not as punky as Sink Or Swim' (condolences to all you die-hards), but rather than being bogged down by the all-American coolness, as The '59 Sound' was at times, this one retains the same voice through many vibrant changes in mood the album is constructed more like a mosaic than an unbroken stream of creativity; a mosaic where the title track acts as one of the lighter pieces of the puzzle and the closer, We Did It When We Were Young', sums up the contrasting dark.
Lyrics — 7
A girl sitting in an old Mustang, listening to The Clash and smoking cigarettes in a parking lot on an early New Jersey evening - I think you probably know the drill for these guys. Part of this band's charm is in the lyrics, and the way in which even the most estranged listener can feel somehow at home with these well-sung stories, though I'm sure we have Americanisation to thank for that. Lots of these streets' and those times', the Gaslight hallmarks that will probably grow stale eventually, although Brian Fallon seems to have recognised this, and writes about it in Old Haunts Don't sing me your songs about the good times/Those days are gone and you should just let them go. It's nice to see him being proactive, but there's life in these old dogs yet. At least Fallon never seems anything short of genuine; a songwriter who can say what he means without alienating what is now a pretty large audience.
Overall Impression — 6
It seems unlikely that this will be a hit factory. It is sadly lacking in huge choruses and suffers a little for it. I have a theory, subject to change depending on their performances, that songs from American Slang' may act as comfortable buffers during live sets, between the really big numbers that people have bought tickets for. This is a perfectly good listen from a perfectly good band, but if we're talking impact then it's not much of an event, more of an intermission, albeit one with... refreshments. I wouldn't deny their chances of making one in the future, but American Slang' won't be one of those records' that kids will be singing about in 2045.