Influenced by a long line of New Jersey rock, including yes Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem’s Mercury Records’ debut is easily the group’s best record. Nothing against the band’s 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 that’s 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. It’s 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 they’d have to remove a lot of punk rock to get there. The reason the reference is there is because Brian Fallon’s voice sounds like Bruce Springsteen’s. 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. He’ll reply lots but none as good. Fallon’s voice is quite a bit like Springsteen- the tone and the rasp together is damn-close but it’s got that little bit of punk rock in there to keep it separate. The point is they sound a lot alike, but it wouldn’t be as big of a deal of this group wasn’t from Jersey too. That’s where the madness lies.
Moving away from that, Handwritten is a spectacular album from The Gaslight Anthem because it sounds different than they’re other records but it still embraces the stuff they’ve done before. The music’s the same but the production sounds bigger this time around. Fallon’s 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 O’Brien 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- I’m not sure how he does it- but every album he’s worked on for the past three years has that type of vibe to it. He’s not just a huge name, he’s an icon now. He just does a wonderful job with whatever he touches.
The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten is a pretty remarkable album. It’s not going to get the band away from the Springsteen reference but it doesn’t have to- nothing ever will and that’s okay. Just take this for what it is, an incredible listen that’s produced by Brendan O’Brien and a smartly written set of eleven songs that flow one into the next like it’s 1991 all over again. Buy this record and appreciate it.