The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang (2010): Review

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Produced by Ted Hutt
Label – Sideonedummy

During recent interviews, The Gaslight Anthem’s front man Brian Fallon confirmed that much of his inspiration for the band’s third album came from his own analysis of the comparisons he could draw from his heroes, The Clash. He could see the essence of similarities between the passionately delivered raw punk of his own band’s debut “Sink Or Swim” and the self titled debut by Joe Strummer and co. The breakthrough album “The ’59 Sound” was the Gaslight Anthem’s “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” with widescreen rock anthems produced with the polish that garners commercial appeal. If “London Calling” is the blueprint for “American Slang”, then Fallon believes that a band that have proven credentials can produce an album that reaches further than ever before and a greater musical breadth that is all drawn from the confidence that comes from strong song writing, powerful performance and indeed, previous success.

In his own words, “It’s the album that we would want to listen to”. Surely egocentric comparisons with bands that produced music that was light years ahead of their tried and tested blue collar rock would have been ridiculed if spoken by most front men, but Fallon is as straight forward, charming and unassuming as they come. “American Slang” continues to herald the working man’s trials and tribulations, the perpetual struggles to overcome the day to day adversities of life and love. The band deliver with that same intense gusto as previous recordings drawing the inevitable comparisons with their home state hero Bruce Springsteen and The Clash. If there’s reservations for the obvious commitment to their art, then one would immediately realise that for all the honest rock ambition there is at times a lack of imaginative melodies to support Fallon’s heartfelt lyrics. “Old Haunts” “Boxer” and “The Spirit Of Jazz” are laboured three and four chord workouts that sound all too familiar when replayed.

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When “American Slang” does sound effortlessly compelling, it’s generally when Fallon and the band find a tune that offers an extra dimension, like the reggae rhythms to “The Queen Of Lower Chelsea”, and the bouncy rhythm guitar melody that backs “The Diamond Church Street Choir”. The excellent title track and opener have enough anthemic musical iconography, with pounding rhythms and Fallon’s voice rising and falling to elevate his sense of loss to the one who “told me fortunes in American slang”. “Bring It On”, powerfully demonstrates Fallon’s ability to tear at the heartstrings comes to the fore as he attempts to resurrect an impossibly broken relationship with dramatic lines (“So give me the fevers that just won’t break, And give me the children you don’t want to raise, And tell me about the cool, He sings to you in those songs, If it’s better than my love, Baby, bring it on”).

One supposes that The Gaslight Anthem will never break from the comparisons with their peers, and it’s quite possible that Brian Fallon and co. don’t give a stuff anyway. Whilst the improvement hoped for following the success of “The ’59 Sound” hasn’t arrived, “American Slang” is still a worthy achievement, but album number three will never be their “London Calling”.

7/10

Track Listing
1.”American Slang” 3:41
2.”Stay Lucky” 3:09
3.”Bring It On” 3:27
4.”The Diamond Church Street Choir” 3:12
5.”The Queen of Lower Chelsea” 3:39
6.”Orphans” 3:23
7.”Boxer” 2:47
8.”Old Haunts” 3:30
9.”The Spirit of Jazz” 3:13
10.”We Did It When We Were Young” 4:16

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