Posted by: Andy | December 10, 2008

Album Review: Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

Have I blogged about these guys before?  I’m sure I must have, because I really like them.

Anyway, on to the album.

We have an interesting situation here in the sense that I’m actually going to recommend buying something where every song isn’t awesome.

Now, none of them are bad mind you, but some do tend to “flame out” little bit (in the sense of a slowly crashing blimp, not a really gay party), but the crashes themselves are usually worth watching.

Maybe you hear them and immediately go “Hey this is just a punk rock updating of the Jersey Shore Sound, kinda like the last Killers album”, or maybe you just hear the bits and pieces of a modern Springsteen kinda thing going on (in the same spirit as the Hold Steady – but coming from a completely different angle).  Or maybe you just like good modern rock and roll – which seems to get labeled as “punk rock” a lot in the genre tags.  And maybe it is, maybe the two are so enmeshed now that it doesn’t matter…because I can definitely hear the punk influence here, but I’d still have to say it tends more strongly towards the rock.  Any which way you come at it, if you like flavors of rock, I think you’ll really like this band and this album.

So, I’ll embed what I think is the best song, and then what I think is the weakest song below so we have the whole spectrum out there.

Here’s “The ’59 Sound”, which is either a really touching personal story, or a “great and beautiful lie”.

And now here’s “Even Cowgirls get the Blues”, which sounds different from the rest of the album, and just doesn’t do it for me.

So, somewhere in between there lies the rest of the album.

It starts off really strong with 5 good songs, then stumbles just a little bit with the almost-there-but-still-too-awkward  “Miles Davis and the Cool”, then kinda does the Ellen DeGenres running-after-trip thing (sorry, can’t find a vid link! 😦 ) for a 3 tracks.   Nothing horrible, just not quite connecting.  There is a random cameo from the Bosstones singer doing bgvs in one of the songs. I should note that nothing here is as jarring as the Killer’s “Uncle Johnny”.  Jesus that was a bad song in the middle of a good album.

It starts to pick back up again with”Meet me by the River’s Edge”, a modern take on “The River” run through the “No Surrender” blender.  In this case, our protagonists aren’t going to the river as an escape, but rather as the escape  – instead of a stopgap, it’s a catalyst.  It’s an interesting take, and just for that it gets points.  Another random Killer’s comment, since both bands are doing the same kind of thing (except in the Killer’s case it was only for one album) – Gaslight does a better “The River” update than the Killers.  I think you could argue (I’m not sure I would though) that the Killer’s track is a better song, but I think Gaslight does a better thematic update.  “Meet me …” sounds much less forced than “This River is Wild” in its approach to me.  Neither can touch the original.

After that are 2 nice, mellow songs that I haven’t really had a chance to get into yet. I’m usually listening on the bus, or downstairs with the giant heater running behind me, so mellow tracks are often lost on me for a while.

So, why should I buy this you say?  Don’t I normally recommend against buying an album that has songs that aren’t 90% stellar?  Yeah, for the most part I do.  But sometimes I make exceptions for things that are exceptional for one reason or another.

Part of that “exceptional” comes from the amazingness that is their first album – Sink or Swim.  That one is just freaking killer, amazing debut album and it’s just another sign of how screwed up the music industry is that it didn’t at least kinda jump off.  Maybe that’s a good thing though and they’ll get in “the hard way” and be better for it.  I kinda doubt it, but I’m hopefully.  We need more bands crafting songs of substance and kicking ass.

Also, I should add that the album itself is pretty damn close to 90%, even if certain tracks falter a little bit.  As a whole it just holds together.

This band hit the ground running, and I’m hopefully that they don’t pull a Bloc Party on album #3, whenever that comes out.

Final Judgment: 87.3%

This was a really tough decision, and may get revised in the future.   I think for some people it’s gonna be a 95% album, but those 3 songs in the middle just haven’t done it for me yet, so that is gonna bring things down.  As a note, anything I rate over 85% is a “go out and buy me!!”.  Sink or Swim is probably around a 92-93%.

If I were I making music in a band right now, I’d hope it would sound something like Gaslight.  Not exactly, but it’s definitely the kind of vibe I’d enjoy and in the area I’d be going for.

I’ll leave you with a track called “Wooderson” from the first album:


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