Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

By on Friday, 20th July 2012 at 12:00 pm

Combining the energy of rock, the ethos of punk and the earnestness of folk the Gaslight Anthem return to us with their fourth album ‘Handwritten’. The band have been teasing fans with ‘unlockable’ previews of the tracks for a week or so even though the lead single ’45’ was premiered on BBC Radio 1 back in April. But now the album is finally available in full.

Coming from the same kind of working class, New Jersey background as Bruce Springsteen, comparisons are inevitable. Luckily, they share a mutual appreciation of each other and occasionally share a stage. But this band has so much to offer in their own right. At the risk of sounding un-American, I prefer this album over the Boss’s latest offering. With tracks like ‘Keepsake’ and ‘Mae’, you can feel the driving urgency to tell the stories lead singer Brian Fallon has locked up inside him. An uncompromising commitment to the egalitarian element of punk, the Gaslight Anthem speaks to everyman in a way that young and old can relate to.

Making an effort to return to their roots, Fallon told Kerrang earlier this year, “There’s punk songs on there, and they’re more punk than our last record”. Hard and fast, the tracks move with lightning speed through the emotions, trials and tribulations that have always obsessed the impassioned young bucks who sing them. Fallon may be maturing with his band, but the excitement of pure rock still rings through each of his songs. Title track ‘Handwritten’ describes the way a song “travels from heart to limb to pen”. The confessional ‘Keepsake’ tears at the fragility of lost familial connections. ‘Mullholland Drive’ is a monster of a track with some respectable shredding from axeman Alex Rosamilia, and the guitar solo in ‘Biloxi Parish’ keeps it rough and real.

The album comes to its close with the down tempo ‘Mae’ and acoustic ‘National Anthem’. ‘Mae’ seems to be the most ‘Jersey’ of them to me. Having grown up summering on the Jersey shore, it strikes a chord with me. While I like quiet moments inside an otherwise rocking album, it seems as if ‘National Anthem’ was custom made for the inevitable rounds of radio and in-store promo acoustic appearances. Tracking could have been improved if these two didn’t follow one another.

With hard driving guitars, insistent drums and heart on the sleeve lyrics, the album lives up to its predecessors. The only criticism for this album would be that many of the tracks sound similar; there is not a lot of experimentation with their tried and true sound. This, I am sure, is welcomed news for the faithful, but I like to hear changes and growth throughout a band’s discography. Notwithstanding the similarity of the music, the album is definitely still as brilliant as we know the Gaslight Anthem are capable of.


‘Handwritten’, the new album from the Gaslight Anthem, is out on the 23rd of July on Mercury. A brief ‘making of’ the album video is below. While the band don’t head to the UK for club dates until October, Cheryl will be bringing you coverage of their DC gig tonight very soon here on TGTF.


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