Midweek Music: Review of The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten

Dec. 26, 2008. I’m lying in bed at my parent’s house after being very sick the Christmas night before. By the afternoon, I start to feel better so I decide to cash in credit and buy some music. While looking through a list of albums, one stood out. Four guys staring into the lens. Leather Jackets. It had rock and roll all over it. I bought it based on the cover alone.

By the time I finished listening to The ’59 Sound straight through, I was astounded. My first thought as the last note vibrated out into the ether was, “I’ll never be able to listen to this for the first time ever again.” The only album I’ve listened to more may be Darkness on the Edge of Town by Springsteen. But I never saw the influence the Boss had on them till much later. I kept telling people it was the Clash meets West Side Story conceived in a garage.

Hard to believe that was four years ago.

Since then we’ve had American Slang, a great album, which simply suffered from comparison. We were graced with Brian Fallon’s wonderful side project, The Horrible Crowes’ Elsie

But we’ve been waiting. Not so much for a repeat of The ’59 Sound as much as a repeat of all that emotion and energy. All the intensity and wonder. All the youth crashing into the retaining wall of adulthood.

And we have it with the release of Handwritten. I’ve been listening to to it over and over for days and with each listen the songs swell from within. 

Each of the eleven songs are full to breaking of all that makes rock and roll so great – that relentless go for broke explosion of emotion in the midst of daily life. This is rock and roll for the everyman. 

In a musical landscape full of quirky and ironic, not to mention strange tunes, The Gaslight Anthem serves up gritty gut-level, heart-on-your-sleeve music. Handwritten is relentlessly honest. From the opening track, “45,” to the closing beauty, “National Anthem,” this is a soul wide-open album.

And all the subjects we wrestle with in the ditches and dining rooms of our life are present in these songs – death, lost love, should-have-beens, and the questions of faith. And you’ll want to sing as loud as you can to each one. Over and over again.

Below are the first two cuts from Handwritten, a one-two punch of fist-pumping, vein- popping-singing-with-every-window-down-rock-and-roll.

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