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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

7. The Gaslight Anthem : Handwritten

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next!

It’s been awhile since Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon broke news of the band’s new album. It was November 16, 2010 to be precise, shortly after soundchecking at Nottingham’s Rock City.

It’s taken awhile, too, thanks to the Stateside band’s workaholic touring schedule, and the desire to follow up big-selling American Slang with something that wasn’t just a by the numbers soundalike sequel.

After coming off the road, Fallon unplugged his internet modem, sequestered himself in his New Jersey home, read the poetry of T.S. Eliot and put pen to paper, writing lyrics in a dog-eared notebook.

It’s no bad thing being compared with Springsteen, of course, and the band were happy to play dates with The Boss. Fallon regularly used to get up and duet on his superstar pal’s Glory Days.

But you can have too much of a good thing. Fallon was getting a little weary of reviews which routinely name-checked Bruce. He wanted to move the band on to pastures that weren’t lined with dusty roads.

“This is the record I would want next, if I were a fan,” he says. “American Slang was cool, but this sounds like a band that’s plugged back into the electric socket again.

“For the first time, I’m not scared that people aren’t going to like this record. I don’t care what Bruce Springsteen or Eddie Vedder or any of my friends think of it.

“I don’t care. If you want to hang with us, you’ve got to grow with us. That’s the deal.”

The Springsteen nods may continue on the likes of Mulholland Drive and driving stadium rock and roller 45, but Handwritten and Keepsake have more of a Tom Petty feel to them.

Here Comes My Man, with its singalong sha-la-la chorus, suggests Fallon has at least one Counting Crows album in his collection.

But Too Much Blood, whose classic rock riff recalls either Free or Soundgarden, depending how old you are, is the heaviest track the Anthem have recorded.

Howl is a razor-sharp rocker, short, sharp and sweet; Biloxi Parish boasts another anthemic chorus; Desire’s guitar chugs like Foo Fighters.

The album closes with gentle Mae and the poignant acoustic National Anthem, a bare bones tale of heartache.

You have to hand it to ‘em.

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