Having formed in 2006, The Gaslight Anthem spent a few years fine tuning their sound in the punk rock underground before enjoying the massive success of their second album, The ’59 Sound. The band boast an instantly recognisable blend of punk, grunge and good old-fashioned rock and roll.
Following their 2010 third album American Slang, Frontman Brian Fallon took a little time-out from the band to focus on The Horrible Crowes, a two-piece project with guitar tech Ian Perkins, offering a darker, slower and more melodic side to his musical prowess. He also embarked on an acoustic tour, playing stripped down versions of tracks from both bands. It seems the break did him good as Fallon, proclaiming that Gaslight is still ‘his baby’, returned, energised and hungry once again for the sound of electric guitars, to the bands’ home town of New Jersey to lay down tracks for fourth album, Handwritten.
Much like the bands previous albums, Handwritten feels like pure, unadulterated, Americana Rock and Roll. The band certainly haven’t lost their distinctive Springsteen esque sound, thanks to Fallons powerful, husky vocals and thrashing guitars. However there is a certain rawness as well as a slightly unpolished feel to the tracks. As the title of the album suggests, the band have said that this is their most personal work to date, drawing on their own experiences to create a more emotional and intimate feel to the album. A welcome change to some of the bands previous albums, where lyrics often feel like a wistful, bitter sweet love letter to the good old U S of A.
Of course, if you’re not into ‘feelings’ and all that, the album can still be enjoyed on a purely superficial level – every track feels stadium ready, especially opening track 45, title track Handwritten and the instant sing along chorus of Here Comes My Man. There is a sense of passion and infectious energy that runs throughout the record and you get a sense that this is an album that was designed to be heard live, or at least turned up loud.
Handwritten is certainly a return to form after American Slang steered slightly away from the bands trademark sound established in their first two albums. Fans of The ’59 Sound will certainly not be disappointed, however, anyone hoping to see more than a little progression in the band may feel a little let down by this slightly samey album.