Sound — 9
As clichd as it sounds, The Gaslight Anthem's new record presents a far more mature sound for this young band. The drumming is tighter, the bass is thicker and the guitars pack more punch than ever before. All this becomes apparent in album opener and title track, American Slang'. The building drums and the muted guitars make for a great opening 15 seconds to the album before the track explodes into a joyous, pounding anthem which provides a perfect platform for the rest of the album to built on. The next track, Stay Lucky' is a more rapid delivery of the nostalgic joy felt throughout the album, before track 3, Bring It On', arguably the least impressive song here. Whilst this song does provide an alternative to the more up-tempo songs such as Stay Lucky' or Orphans' it does generally feel like a less impressive version of the title track. The Diamond Church Street Choir' features more jazzy guitars whilst remaining true to familiar rocky Gaslight Anthem sound. This, in combination with the unforgettable chorus makes this song a real stand-out track on the album. The Queen of Lower Chelsea' provides a more down-tempo style far more successfully than Bring It On' with excellent understated drumming and muted and finger-picked guitars which allow the vocal melody to shine through. The next two tracks, Orphans' and Boxer' are two of the more upbeat, punk-styled efforts on the album and for me are real highlights. Boxer' is a particularly interesting song, featuring Brian Fallon's crunchy distorted rhythm guitar beneath Alex Rosamilia's clean lead. I was initially apprehensive about this sound, but it's a real grower, especially considering this is some of Rosamilia's best guitar work to date. 'Old Haunts' sees drummer Ben Horowitz experimenting with more complex rhythms to great effect, preventing this track from simply fading into the rest. The Spirit of Jazz' is one of the more questionable song titles here, but the song is good enough to merit any name it desires, featuring more excellent individual work from each band member and another unforgettable chorus. Album closer We Did It When We Were Young' is a tear-jerking ballad to youth, muted rhythm and beautiful lead guitar lines help to make this song one of the band's most accomplished to date.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics to this album are nothing short of incredible. Singer and guitarist Brian Fallon leaves you hanging on his every word with his raw, impassioned poetry matched brilliantly with the pure expressive power of his voice. The lyrical content mostly revolves around the theme of growing up or moving on, shown explicitly through We Did It When We Were Young' in which Fallon almost mourns the passing of his youth, I don't remember the good times, I wasn't there when you were kind'. This to an extent contrasts with the lyrical content of songs such as Old Haunts' in which Fallon appears to be forcing himself to move on, God help the man who says If you'd have known me when Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts'. At other times, the lyrics simply beg of you to sing along to them such as the choruses in The Diamond Church Street Choir' and The Spirit of Jazz' as well as at least the opening few seconds of 'Boxer'. Overall, the lyrics comply perfectly with the music and with Fallon's distinctive, incredible voice, conveying the nostalgic joy you cannot help but feel when listening to this album.
Overall Impression — 9
One comparison it always seemed The Gaslight Anthem would never be able to escape was that of Bruce Springsteen, both artists hail from New Jersey and both create rousing rock anthems. However, on American Slang, The Gaslight Anthem seem to politely step away from that comparison in an attempt to find a sound of their own. This, for the most part, is very successful, and I feel that in one or two years time, this band will have their very own complete (and no doubt fantastic) sound. After the near-perfect The '59 Sound, it would be wrong to say that this is The Gaslight Anthem's best album, but it would definitely be fair to say that for the third successive time The Gaslight Anthem have created one of the best albums I have heard in a long, long time.