The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

Still another album that would be funnier if its title started with “African,” and I’ll be jiggered! The Anthem have really put it together on this one!

The big Anthem problem has always been that they can’t write any great songs. Sure, everything sounds nice while it’s on, but could you really distinguish between any two of last nine songs on “The ’59 Sound,” which was a pretty good album? But here, the dudes put together five straight memorable sounds to open the album, and it is good. They’re getting downright Springsteeny with the weaving of stories (nothing here comes across as autobiographical, which is tough for me to gag on and swallow) across different towns, but good good golly gosh, the melodies, and dat idolization of youth!

The title track is a decent mission statement for the whole album, then “Stay Lucky” kicks in a bit of emo noodling on top of another solid melody, then the other three that I also like.

Look, you have to know what you like. I quoted a line last time around, let’s try another: “When you’re working full time / And spending all of your nights / Never dancing like you did / And gravity hangs on all the selling points you had / Should’ve stayed and been the queen / Of Lower Chelsea” – what do you think, sister? Did it conjure a 28 year-old hipster looking in the mirror at her fourth year in her consulting job? Or was it more like a pretentious glorification of a stupid lifestyle? Because if you said the second, this probably isn’t for you. I mean, it’s a rock album, so it’s bound to put beards over babies, but almost all of the songs here are unambiguously about younger days, old haunts, and old flames. It’s never been any different with these guys, but I notice it here more…maybe because I can actually remember the songs this time. Everything has that same post-emo rock’n’roll feel, but the melodies actually stick out this time. At least they do until after the first five songs, when they settle into rewriting “Stay Lucky” a few times, but then the last couple songs really pick it up, especially “We Did It When We Were Young” – geez, you’d think lead singer Brian Fallon would just buy a time machine already!

The bonus track is a bit nice too; it’s an acoustic version of the title track that sticks in my head even more than the original, except for the part where Fallon oversings the shit out of it to such an extent that it becomes laughable. But otherwise, solid showing, Christian guy and your presumably non-Christian friends!

8 / 10

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