The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten Album Review
Radio friendly rockers The Gaslight Anthem have returned with their fourth full-length release Handwritten, channelling the classic New Jersey sound into today's consciousness. Following an unprecedented level of exposure into the public gaze after high profile festival appearances and tours, the band have found themselves in a position where fans across the world will be clamouring for new material and with this album, they have duly obliged.
Opening track and lead single 45 sounds huge, setting the standard high before comfortably segueing into the album's title track. Handwritten is a four minute injection of mid tempo rock and roll, effortlessly rolling back the years to 1985 USA. Mulholland Drive is a cut above the other tracks on the opening half of the record, heartfelt lyrics balanced nicely with the band's signature fuzzy guitar and rolling drum patterns making for a hit in the making.
Brian Fallon's vocal performance is by far the strongest element of the album. Equal parts Chris Cornell and Tom Petty, his voice is prominent in the mix and compliments the weaving guitars well in tracks such as Here Comes My Man and Biloxi Parish. There is an unavoidable comparison between the band and a certain Bruce Springsteen, self-confessed fan and former tour-mate. His influence is especially seen in the more up-tempo numbers on Handwritten, channelling the energy and melody of The Boss into four minute slabs of radio rock & roll.
Unfortunately, as the album continues into its latter stages the tracks become lost in one another; in this respect, Handwritten's consistency is a double-edged sword. The entire record happily bobs along at an upbeat tempo until heartfelt album closer National Anthem. A fairly leftfield choice for an album's last track, in this case one that works and sticks long in the memory, but one that sounds as if it could be destined for use as an advert soundtrack.
What The Gaslight Anthem have produced with Handwritten is a very well written record, an amalgamation of music's great songwriters; the up-tempo stomp of Bruce Springsteen infused with the character and warmth of Lynyrd Skynyrd combined with elements of early Thin Lizzy and Neil Young. However, as effective as this is, Handwritten offers very little in terms of originality. The Gaslight Anthem have often cited The Clash and The Replacements as huge influences and this does show, the album very much reminiscent of the American punk renaissance of the 1980s. This said it does forgo the bite and energy associated with these bands, allowing them to create a sound more accessible for their recently gained wider audience. With huge acclaim beckoning, inevitably propelling The Gaslight Anthem to new levels of stardom it remains to be seen whether this will matter to them.
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