Solid rock music, not pop rock or alternative rock: that is exactly what The Gaslight Anthem brings to the table in their fourth album, HANDWRITTEN. The rock genre of music seems to have forgotten what its all about. Numerous artists are attempting to evolve the genre with the use of synthesizers and mixing in other styles of music; while this is terrific and keeps the genre fresh, there is still a need for heartland music that comes from the barebones of rock. This is exactly where the Bruce Springsteen influence has always been apparent with group from New Brunswick, New Jersey, their music isn’t fancy, but it rings in the heart of listeners. When lead singer Brian Fallon plays out his musings of the wants of men and women on “Desire” the struggle in his voice is audible. There has never been anything contrived about the group, they’re a band of Americans that can accurately portray that uniquely American viewpoint of the heartland and middle working class.
The legitimate and real act of self-reflection on “National Anthem” encapsulates the album’s greatest strength: range. Most artists’ songs evoke emotion and calls for a particular setting, but usually only one. The songs of HANDWRITTEN are unique in that they fit on the ride home after too many hours at work, at a concert standing beside thousands of other fans or over the speakers of a radio during a family barbecue (a personal favorite). A flawless blending of sound with narrative is what allows this flexibility in listening environment. “Mae” has lyrics that can tell the listener how to feel about its storyteller (a boy/man growing up in middle America wanting to be with a girl/woman), with just enough passion and emphasis in the sound to conjure up the same emotion when too far away to hear every word. With the album released on July 24th there will be just enough time to squeeze in a couple of those barbecues before the summer ends, with this album as its soundtrack.