Handwritten review by The Gaslight Anthem

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  • Released: Jul 24, 2012
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9 (53 votes)
The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten
3

Sound — 10
Full credit to producer Brendan O'Brien and the crew behind the mixing desk here, because the sound is near perfect. More so than on any previous Gaslight efforts, each instrument is perfectly balanced and allowed to shine, making for a stunning sound that marks the band's best work to date. From the opening howl of "45", you know you are in for a raw, energetic and passionate experience; this makes the anthemic "45" an ideal choice for album opener and lead single. The album's title track follows this with catchy "woah"s, gorgeous twinkles of piano and one of Alex Rosamilia's most soaring lead guitar lines to date. Rosamilia is so often the saviour of The Gaslight Anthem, preventing often repetitive chord sequences from becoming stale, and this album showcases his talents brilliantly. The frequently subdued Alex Levine also has his moments to shine on the bass, notably in track 3 "Here Comes My Man". More great bass work is on show in the more aggressive "Mulholland Drive", before the huge sound of "Keepsake", in which harmonica and lead guitar duel over bass-heavy backing. "Too Much Blood" features a grungey headbanger of a riff, which perfectly compliments Brain Fallon's angry soul vocals, though this is contrasted with a softer, more melodic chorus, to great effect; this is another album highlight. "Howl" is yet another, a song to instantly fall in love with. Lasting 2 minutes, it is joyous, upbeat and memorable. "Biloxi Parish", however, is the killer track in my opinion. One of the best, if not the best this band has written, this tried and tested crowd pleaser sees each band member on top form; great riff work, superb bass, perfect drums and an outstanding solo, all without mentioning Fallon's amazing vocals. This is one of the best songs I have heard in a long, long time. All this makes for the follow-up, "Desire" to be quite underwhelming, though its catchy nature would make this a key song on most other albums. The penultimate effort, "Mae" is a sweet, Horrible Crowes-esque ballad, once again laden with excellent bass work perfectly-toned guitars, and some of Benny Horowitz's best drumming yet. "National Anthem", the closer is impeccable; a truly fantastic acoustic piece that takes on new musical territory for the band with the introduction of a strings section. Due to the number of times adjectives such as "perfect" have cropped up here, it is difficult not to give this album's sound a 10. Very few bands sound like this any more, which is perhaps why "Handwritten" is so magical; it is progressive but it never forgets where it is coming from; refined but raw, and utterly brilliant.

Lyrics — 9
Anyone who has given The Gaslight Anthem a fair listen will know the story with Brian Fallon's lyrics. Radios, classic cars, tatoos... Strangely though, it never gets tiresome. "45", the ultimate moving-on song, has lyrics everyone can relate to, though it does not stray from Fallon's familiar lexis, "turn the record over... I'll see you on the flip side". "Handwritten", as you'd expect from the title, features more Fallon mastery, "with this pen, I thee wed from my heart to your distress". Fallon also muses on songwriting itself in the contemplative "Too Much Blood", a metaphor that accurately illustrates the passion this writer infuses into each song. This album is frequented by an abundance of woahs, heys and in the case of "Here Comes My Man", sha-la-las, making each song massively memorable. Rosamilia and Levine's vocals are featured far more heavily here than on previous albums, to great effect. Once again, this feels like a whole band on top of their game. But despite the marvelous backing vocals, it remains Brian Fallon who steals the show; this album demonstrates a whole new dimension to his voice. More than ever before, it soars, it snarls, it downright explodes. Brian Fallon's voice is a crucial aspect of The Gaslight Anthem's unique, impassioned sound and makes for the perfect match to his equally heartfelt lyrics.

Overall Impression — 10
This is very much one of the best albums I have ever heard. Each member of the band, and even the production team, seem to be on top form throughout. Since 2008, the question for this band has been "will they ever write something better than 'The '59 Sound'?". Where "American Slang" failed, "Handwritten" succeeds. This is a classic, and sets a new standard not only for the band, but for rock music altogether. Having said that, it is difficult to imagine any other band than The Gaslight Anthem topping this. It is a superlative work, and one that surely will propel them from the outskirts into the realms of rock stardom. This is not said with a heavy heart though, as you get the impression that no matter how far this band is taken, they will never forget where they're from.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    iRainH2O
    Gaslight are one of those bands where if you hate them it's musical ignorance
    who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant?
    MXFNCK
    Usually I hate these kinds of 'overly' positive reviews but in this case, I have to agree. What a great album! 9*
    derek8520
    BwareDWare94 wrote: iRainH2O wrote: who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant? I'm not usually one to make such statements, but disliking The Gaslight Anthem is disliking music with a purpose.
    Bullshit. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This is a good album.
    Anchr
    BwareDWare94 wrote: Not bullshit. Disliking Gaslight is like thinking Rush aren't talented musicians.
    *Citation needed*
    derek8520
    Music&Soul wrote: ^Little bit into gay tired modern music are you???
    I would have thought that people on a music website would be a bit more open-minded and be able to understand that music is subjective and that different people like different music. And since when is "gay" an insult? Grow up.
    OtherGuy
    I loved 59 Sound so much, and really thought I had found something new in this band. Fallon quickly became my favourite rock vocalist. American Slang appealed to me EVEN MORE (despite it not being as fan-appreciated as 59) It was slightly folkier, but I loved it nonetheless This new album is just something else. It seems to have everything. I don't understand why this band aren't one of the biggest in the world at this point, they're certainly one of the best
    BwareDWare94
    Gaslight are one of those bands where if you hate them it's musical ignorance. There is nothing to hate about these guys. Everything is 100% real, they have their own sound, and a unique but very talented vocalist. I find myself daring people I show them to to hate them, but it just doesn't happen. Like I said--impossible.
    Battman1993
    Music&Soul wrote: Why all the fuss with this band seriously? I've listened to a few songs and they are no different from anyone else these days in the "rock" field. They sound like every other pop punk pussy boy band that trys to be WAY too catchy to impress major label personnel that have no clue what real "rock" is or should be anyways. You want real "rock"? You need ROCK 'N' ROLL! A band like Rival Sons for instance. They are only band that I know of that is anything real deal these days. Wait til I'm given my chance to prove real rock 'n' roll and timeless songwriting still is being made. My stuff has all the good elements such as soul, blues, rock riffs with actual groove and/or funk to it, interesting unique and cool open tuned acoustic work, actual songwriting skills in the arrangements, piano/organ in some songs, somewhat psychedelic feel good chords and jams, and every song sounds different and has its own character, stuff influenced by say Zep, Black Crowes, Allmans, Doobies, Rival Sons, STP, Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, early Smashing Pumpkins, Blind Melon, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Dada, 60s/70s/90s type stuff. Gaslight Anthem are no saviors of music.
    Little bit self-absorbed are we?
    yaronbeery
    i actually tried their first album, and it was ok for me but it didn't fully clicked me and i hesitated about trying handwritten but when i did it totally blew me away. great songs, great lyrics. the kind of rock that's been missing for so long. no weak moments on it's, or like they used to say - all killer no filler.
    TJ1991
    This album is absolutely fantastic. The 59 Sound has been one of my favourite albums of all time since its release, but this is up there with that. It'll take a few more listens to get fully into it, but my first impressions are that it's epic.
    Nero Galon
    I first found TGA with American Slang. I thought that album was great. Then I listened to The 59' Sound and some of Sink or Swim... I didn't give them much time to grow on me. Anyways I bought them nevertheless and have to say that American Slang can't compare at all to Sink or Swim and The 59' Sound. I can't pick my favourite between the two now. I am glad to hear what I have so far off of Handwritten, and am almost sure will be the catalyst to send this band to where they deserve to be.
    vppark2
    BwareDWare94 wrote: derek8520 wrote: BwareDWare94 wrote: iRainH2O wrote: who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant? I'm not usually one to make such statements, but disliking The Gaslight Anthem is disliking music with a purpose. Bullshit. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This is a good album. Not bullshit. Disliking Gaslight is like thinking Rush aren't talented musicians.
    Why is Rush being brought up into this? Just stop...
    Rick_Diculous
    '59 Sound > Handwritten > Sink or Swim > American Slang. All four are awesome though. What a fantastic band.
    kthxbye
    I don't usually buy into these over-positive reviews either, but the guy has it spot on here. The best album of the decade so far as far as I'm concerned.
    Ironpriest
    I was a bit worried because whilst I enjoyed American Slang, to be it sounded like a band on autopilot... This however sounds like the band is hungry again! I honestly believe that this will be the album that cracks them into the mainstream
    Elderer
    Totally not a listener of this kind of music but my friend put it on while driving to country-side and I got to admit-its bad,pretty Ok.
    BwareDWare94
    iRainH2O wrote: who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant?
    I'm not usually one to make such statements, but disliking The Gaslight Anthem is disliking music with a purpose.
    Music&Soul
    Why all the fuss with this band seriously? I've listened to a few songs and they are no different from anyone else these days in the "rock" field. They sound like every other pop punk pussy boy band that trys to be WAY too catchy to impress major label personnel that have no clue what real "rock" is or should be anyways. You want real "rock"? You need ROCK 'N' ROLL! A band like Rival Sons for instance. They are only band that I know of that is anything real deal these days. Wait til I'm given my chance to prove real rock 'n' roll and timeless songwriting still is being made. My stuff has all the good elements such as soul, blues, rock riffs with actual groove and/or funk to it, interesting unique and cool open tuned acoustic work, actual songwriting skills in the arrangements, piano/organ in some songs, somewhat psychedelic feel good chords and jams, and every song sounds different and has its own character, stuff influenced by say Zep, Black Crowes, Allmans, Doobies, Rival Sons, STP, Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, early Smashing Pumpkins, Blind Melon, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Dada, 60s/70s/90s type stuff. Gaslight Anthem are no saviors of music.
    iommi600
    BwareDWare94 wrote: derek8520 wrote: BwareDWare94 wrote: iRainH2O wrote: who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant? I'm not usually one to make such statements, but disliking The Gaslight Anthem is disliking music with a purpose. Bullshit. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This is a good album. Not bullshit. Disliking Gaslight is like thinking Rush aren't talented musicians.
    lolololololol people are entitled to their opinions, dude.
    vppark2
    Anyways solid album. Its hard to tell tho only after listening through to this once, so far. I will say that i will be listening to this a lot now, and i had nvr come upon this with TGA's previous releases. I just didnt quite seem to get into them very much. This album highlights quite a few genres. I mean take a listen to it. They have practically everything there. From alternative, to punk, to folk, to grunge, it's all there.
    gerardIRL1916
    Absolutely fantastic album yet again from Gaslight. After the slightly lackluster American Slang album, the band are back to their 100% best again and this eclipses '59 Sound in my opinion with tracks like 45, Here comes my man and Handwritten driving a truly great album! Epic!
    BwareDWare94
    derek8520 wrote: BwareDWare94 wrote: iRainH2O wrote: who are you to say if i hate a band that i'm musically ignorant? I'm not usually one to make such statements, but disliking The Gaslight Anthem is disliking music with a purpose. Bullshit. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This is a good album.
    Not bullshit. Disliking Gaslight is like thinking Rush aren't talented musicians.