The Gaslight Anthem is from New Jersey, and they are the latest to capture the Jersey mysticism, if you can call it that, following in the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and many others with lyrics that include great stories, nostalgia, and romanticized tales of breaking free for a better life. They're one of those bands that you hear and you say "I wish there were more bands that made music like this," but you're kind of glad there aren't because you don't want to take anything away from what they're doing.
The '59 Sound, which is the band's second of three albums, is one of my favorite albums from the past few years. The Gaslight Anthem is often labeled a "punk" band, but I don't think that's a fair label. Certainly, there are punk attributes in some of their songs, but I think of them more as a straightforward rock and roll band. Then again, I guess you could make the argument that punk is straightforward rock and roll. If The Killers had grown up in New Jersey instead of Vegas, they might have sounded like this.
The album is full of great rock with interesting lyrics and familiar, relatable themes. I'm also a fan because, throughout the album, the band drops references to songs by Bob Seger, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Counting Crows, Paul Simon, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Elvis Costello, Gary U.S. Bonds, and Wilson Pickett.
This album will always have a special place in my heart because I got it late fall last year and listened to it a lot during the late fall and early winter. As a result, it will always remind me of the birth of Daughter – well, not the actual birth (Slayer's "Angel of Death" was playing during that), but that time period.
Sadly, only seven of the twelve songs are on Playlist.com.
1. Great Expectations
I am a firm believer that great albums must have great first songs. "Great Expectations" is a great song. It starts off with a couple seconds of a needle on vinyl, which gives you some indication that this album is not going include a synthesizer or a voice box. After that, the song just smacks you in the face with immediate vocals backed by a driving beat. From the first time I heard the song, I have loved the chorus ("I saw tail lights last night / In a dream about my first wife / Everybody leaves / And I'd expect as much from you").
2. The '59 Sound
This song is not only a great rock and roll song, but it has an air of despair to it. If I understand it correctly – and I probably don't – it's about death and what songs you hear, if any, when you're dying. Beyond that, it's a fantastic rock song, with a huge chorus. Also, I think the line "Ain't supposed to die on a Saturday night" is particularly good because it's true. You want to die on a Monday or a Tuesday, when it's not going to ruin your weekend (or anyone else's).
3. Old White Lincoln
This starts out with a bass line and guitars reminiscent of The Cure. The title alone evokes a certain imagery, and the song is filled with great images: lighting cigarettes on parking meters, summer dresses hanging on clothes lines, tops rolled down on a Saturday night, high top sneakers, sailor tattoos.
4. High Lonesome
I really like this song, especially, the run down the fret board the guitar takes as the chorus kicks in. There are also lyrical odes to "Round Here" by Counting Crows and "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen in the song, and by "lyrical odes," I mean actual lyrics from those songs.
5. Film Noir
This song kind of gets lost in the shuffle amongst all of the other good songs on the album, but it's pretty good. It has a choppy, plodding beat, gruff vocals, and lyrics about leaving your old, shitty life behind.
6. Miles Davis & The Cool
This is another one with a choppy beat, and I kind of see it as the response to "Film Noir," but maybe I'm looking too much into it.
7. The Patient Ferris Wheel
This is my second favorite song on the album behind "Great Expectations." I love the chorus. It has a nice punky call-and-response and then catchy, interesting lyrics that might be about an electrical fire. No matter what, the song rocks. Unfortunately, this is one of the songs that's not on Playlist.com, but here is a link to a live in-studio performance.
8. Casanova, Baby!
This is a catchy rocker, with kind of a marching beat.
9. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
This is a bluesy, slower song with another solid, soulful chorus about loving Tom Petty songs and driving old men crazy.
10. Meet Me At The River's Edge
An overt homage to Springsteen, this song is a great, frantic rocker about leaving everything behind for greener pastures and not regretting it.
11. Here's Looking At You, Kid
This is a slower song, and the narrator is lamenting on his lost loves from his youth, even though he is superficially in a better place than he was when all these girls rejected him. He essentially tells them that they broke his heart, but it's all right because they missed out on something that would have been great.
12. The Backseat
They end the album with a bombastic, soulful rocker, teeming with desperation ("And if you never let me go / Well, I will never let you down"). It's a perfect end to a great album. This also isn't on Playlist.com, but here is a link to a YouTube "video" of the song.