The Gaslight Anthem have come a long way from the Spingsteen-esque punk fusion of their early exploits. Though even to relatively new fans the bar has been set high by their charmingly powerful 2010 predecessor American Slang. Basic, raw and engaging, Handwritten takes the leap into new territory and by no means does it fall short. Incorporating their classic sing along sound, most obviously present on `45', `Mullholland Drive' and `Biloxi Parish', with a new rockier drive it's unlike anything they've ever done before. The effect, which can partly be credited to different producer Brendan O'Brien, gives the bands folk punk core a new fiery exterior which undoubtedly engages the listeners attention much more effectively than previous efforts on a first run through. However, this does also leave a feeling of unfulfillment in places which a more layered approach would have remedied.
If you're expecting a start to finish fast paced strong chorused album then you might find yourself dissatisfied. Much like previous albums Gaslight successfully vary the overall feel. Songs such as `Here Comes My Man' and `Mae' offer a more reserved approach to punk rock then the forceful `Too Much Blood'. Though perhaps disappointingly `National Anthem' is the only truly acoustic track on Handwritten; slow, soft and brooding Brian Fallon's emotionally empowering vocals are used to great affect which co-insides beautifully which the gentle guitar hook. It's just a shame there are less of these moments throughout, though the bonus addition of the album showcases a few live acoustic versions of past fan favourites should you be left craving more like myself.
Overall The Gaslight Anthem has done a fantastic effort with Handwritten. Stripped down and catchy it's definitely an album which adds something refreshing and new to their catalogue. Though it doesn't quite blow me away it certainly has its moments making it a perfect example of how punk should be done for a new era of fans. (Hope you're listening Green Day)
Standout Tracks: "45", Howl, National Anthem
For Fans of: Against Me, Frank Turner, Bruce Springsteen