Influenced by a long line of New Jersey rock, including yes Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthemís Mercury Recordsí debut is easily the groupís best record. Nothing against the bandís SideOneDummy days because those records are brilliant, but they never had the really huge moments that their new album, Handwritten does. This album is filled with some amazing songs and some captivating moments inside of those songs and thatís what makes it their best record yet. By the way, did I mention that these guys kind of sound like Bruce Springsteen?
The Springsteen reference will always be there. Itís a little bit to do with what they do musically. There are some E-Street Band worthy songs on here that the band could adapt and play in their style but theyíd have to remove a lot of punk rock to get there. The reason the reference is there is because Brian Fallonís voice sounds like Bruce Springsteenís. It was bound to happen sooner or later, I mean ask any A&R guy in America how many guys out there sound like Chris Cornell. Heíll reply lots but none as good. Fallonís voice is quite a bit like Springsteen- the tone and the rasp together is damn-close but itís got that little bit of punk rock in there to keep it separate. The point is they sound a lot alike, but it wouldnít be as big of a deal of this group wasnít from Jersey too. Thatís where the madness lies.
Moving away from that, Handwritten is a spectacular album from The Gaslight Anthem because it sounds different than theyíre other records but it still embraces the stuff theyíve done before. The musicís the same but the production sounds bigger this time around. Fallonís vocal sounds better here than ever before and the guitar work done by Fallon and Alex Rosamilla is pretty incredible. Just as fantastic is the rhythm section- Alex Levine has some amazing bass parts on this album and Benny Horowitz percussion is precise and distinctive. The playing was always brilliant but Brendan OíBrien nailed the production of this record in the way that quite frankly only he could. He has this ability to give any band a cinematic landscape to an album- Iím not sure how he does it- but every album heís worked on for the past three years has that type of vibe to it. Heís not just a huge name, heís an icon now. He just does a wonderful job with whatever he touches.
The Gaslight Anthemís Handwritten is a pretty remarkable album. Itís not going to get the band away from the Springsteen reference but it doesnít have to- nothing ever will and thatís okay. Just take this for what it is, an incredible listen thatís produced by Brendan OíBrien and a smartly written set of eleven songs that flow one into the next like itís 1991 all over again. Buy this record and appreciate it.