With The ’59 Sound, New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem emerges as a band telling stories like throwing elbows, writing hard nostalgia in the margins and back pages of the fakebooks we love. These are songs that tell the stories of what happened to the people formerly riding in the those burned out Chevrolets hulking on the shoulder of Thunder Road.
In that tradition so well mapped by Hot Water Music, Gaslight has had the earnest, rough-hewn, and open-armed thing down, hollered sing-alongs and all, since the release of their first LP Sink or Swim in 2007 and the following EP Señor and the Queen earlier this year.
To the original roster of songwriting nods on those two records (Springsteen, Tom Waits, Hot Water Music, among others), the band has added on this release the sparse guitar/bass tones and drum rhythms of early Cure (listen to “Old White Lincoln” and then listen to the Cure’s “In Between Days”), the reverb-wet vocals and danceability of the Replacements, and a distinctive Archers of Loaf meets the Boss twist to the vocal style. Any shakiness that had been apparent in the rapid-fire of their earlier releases where they had to meet that confluence between influence, originality, and delivery that defines every band’s sound is gone. The ’59 Sound is the point when Gaslight Anthem has come into its own.
Fearless songwriting chops (could you reference Adam Duritz and the Boss in a single song like singer Brian Fallon does on “High and Lonesome” and make it work?) a disciplined meting of influences into a distinctive signature, and a tight grip on ’50s-influenced punk are the rare makings of a sweaty, smiling rock ‘n roll love-in.
New Jersey, in addition to being home to the first shopping mall, has produced some fine musical acts. To that bristle of freak standouts we can award inductee status to The Gaslight Anthem. The ’59 Sound releases on August 19 on Side One Dummy Records.