This is my first go at writing a review of an album so, please, bear with me. A little background before we dive into the review.
I fell in love with Gaslight’s album, The ’59 Sound. It came at the perfect time. I was out of a relationship and down on my luck and this record erupted into my life. From the opening fuzz of opener “Great Expectations” to the thunder of closer “The Backseat” I was immediately enamored. The album caught me at the perfect time in my life and was the life affirming blast I needed.
And then Gaslight Anthem released American Slang in 2010 and while not having the same effect as their prior release, it was a great record and a testament to the fact that Rock n’ roll was alive and well. Which brings me to 2012’s Handwritten.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought this record. I knew it would be good since it is a Gaslight Anthem record and they have never released any bad music (seriously. Look through their catalogue and try to find one bad song. You can’t.)
Handwritten starts off with a bang with “45”. A song about love lost and getting through it using metaphors about records. “And all my friends say…
“Hey, turn the record over.
Hey, I’ll see you on the flip side.
There you go, turn the key and engine over…
Let her go, let somebody else lay at her feet.”
It’s an easily used metaphor but is absolutely perfect at the same time. And the song gives the listener a preview of what the rest of the album is going to be. An album full of lost love, but also hope.
Take for instance the title track of the record, the song describes how music can lfit the spirit of a person and how music can go through time and help people. A bold statement, perhaps, but a perfectly fitting one. Seriously. Watch the incredibly well done music video of the song and see what I mean.
What is apparent as the record continues is that the band is able to dive a bit more heavily into an alternative rock route than in previous records (think Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam, ect…) but still keep a certain edge to the music that shows the influence bands like The Clash had on them. Perhaps best of all, though, is that while you can see the influences that the band has drawn from, they make it uniquely thir own. And it sounds fresh and not rehashed at all.
But for fans of their older material (predominantly Sink or Swim and the Senor and the Queen EP) you’ll be thrilled with the song “Howl” which sounds like it could fit on either of those releases. The song has a drive to it that does nothing but make you want to jump up and down and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
I’d be amiss to not mention the final three tracks of the album, Desire, Mae, and National Anthem. The songs are perfect Gaslight Anthem songs. In Desire we see the work of Brian Fallon’s writing capability (which has always been phenomenal) when he sings out And some men spend their lives
Chasing the accolades of pride
But that just never crossed my mind,
You were always on my mind
You can’t help but believe every word he sings.
The album closers with an acoustic track, the previously mentioned National Anthem that tells the story of a love since gone away yet remembered with fondness. It’s the way that someone who really loved someone feels after all the immediate emotion subsides. That moment where you realize you experienced love and you love that person for letting you experience it with them.
And that’s the beauty of this album. It makes you want to fall in love. It makes you want to share that love with someone, whether it be with your girl, boy, or a crowd of fans that sing slightly off key. The Gaslight Anthem have crafted in Handwritten their best album and one of the best I have ever heard.
I never will forget you my american love
And I’ll always remember you wild as they do come