The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
The Gaslight Anthem are set to up the ante with the release of fourth LP Handwritten. Following on from a Brixton headlining show that everyone claims to have been at, is it finally time for the New Jersey boys to start considering the possibility of the stadium?
On the first listen, the answer to this question is a yes. The riffs are definitely cut to fill Wembley and the thundering percussion would probably demolish the walls of the 4000 capacity venues they are currently filling. The distorted guitars build a wall of noise that still retains a catchy melody, gearing Hadwritten up for ‘Best Rock Album of 2012’ lists (possibly). But before we look too far into the possibilities of their future, let’s get that inevitable comparison out of the way. This has Bruce Springsteen written all over it, even more so than on previous discs. The influence is obvious and whilst mostly tastefully done, many may find the xeroxing too much. This is particularly the case on opening track and lead single ‘45’, which whilst a compelling track, could easily have been lifted out of Bruce’s extensive back catalogue.
Comparisons aside, Handwritten is otherwise a solid rock album, accessible enough for the mainstream yet still retaining some of the grit which made TGA so appealing in the first place. It's the vocals which distinguish the eleven tracks from their competition, the unique rasps of Brian Fallon narrating his now-standard tales of the "American Dream". The music mostly serves as a solid background for Fallon, following a similar formula across most tracks: a guitar solo is given around thirty seconds to impress at two minutes in, a theory that holds across almost every track on the album.
Standout track 'Mulholland Drive' has a marching beat throughout, and whilst the accompanying riff is simple, it will stick in your head for days. By the time the guitar solo drops at - what a surprise - around two minutes, it's already obvious that this is Gaslight at their most enjoyable, if most radio-friendly. As Radio 1 give them frequent airtime, The Gaslight Anthem have made what could well be the most successful offering of their career.