Monday, December 1, 2008
The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy)
“I hate myself for loving you,” sang Joan Jett, and the words apply here, because New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem recycle so many worn clichés that I wince when I think about the lyrics. But damn it if I don’t find myself singing along. They aim for a Springsteenian resonance; they come off as more of a Social Distortion retread (not that I don't love Social Distortion, but...). But there’s honesty in the effort. It’s true that singer Brian Fallon sounds a hell of a lot like the Bruce of “Johnny 99”, and there’s that shared Jersey heritage, so that’s fair; I expect there are worse things a kid from New Brunswick (New Jersey) can get caught up in than Springsteen worship. The whole thing reads like the natural outcome of a kid who’s spent his life relating to his hero’s lyrics and the characters brought to life therein. Musically there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but I’d be quick to say that though the Gaslight Anthem get lumped in with the Warped Tour mallpunk thing, they’re really just a rock & roll band with an ear for sing-along melodies. So, yeah, you take the good and you take the not-so-good. Over-obvious lyrics that borrow too many tropes about a halcyon past where guys wooed dolls by wearing their hearts on their rolled-up sleeves (sample song titles: “Miles Davis and the Cool,” “Here’s Looking at You, Kid”) and which actually quote Springsteen on more than one occasion? Check. Songs that you find yourself singing days later? Double check.