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Handwritten Deluxe Edition
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Handwritten is the fourth album from The Gaslight Anthem and arguably the band's most mature record to date. Introduced by muscular lead-off single "45", which received its world premiere on BBC Radio 1 as Zane Lowe's Hottest Record In The World, it finds the Jersey band in inspired form, decanting '60's soul, '70's stadium rock, '80s hardcore and '90's grunge into eleven white-knuckle, blue-collar everyman anthems.
Singer Brian Fallon likens its incandescent electrical storms to "Tom Petty songs [being] played by Pearl Jam". Put more simply, it's a supercharged American rock 'n' roll classic. After years paying their dues in the punk rock underground, their major label debut is assuredly the work of a young band who know their time is now.
The deluxe edition includes three bonus tracks.
The times have certainly changed for The Gaslight Anthem. Four years and two silver-certified albums since their leap over the top in this country, they’ve established themselves with an evocative brand of wistful, blue-collar rock. Hearteningly for their old-school fans, it never seems to forget the rites of passage that brought them here.
Handwritten is the band’s fourth album and represents an attempt to avoid repeating themselves. The main upshot of this decisive step out of their comfort zone is the warm embrace of big, bold anthems. It’s a natural but impressive transition that takes to another level the intravenous hooks present since their comparatively raw Sink or Swim debut of 2007.
These room-filling rock songs are still guided by frontman Brian Fallon’s husky croon. It’s emboldened by the fact that Benny Horowitz is still one of the most underrated drummers around, while bassist Alex Levine and guitarist Alex Rosamilia continue to be fine foils for Fallon’s bewitching turns of phrase.
Frequently, things that turn existence ugly – change, doubt, love – are gutted and filled with life-affirming vitality. It must be enough to make some of their peers, whose material merely wallows in comparison, sink even further into the dumps.
“I can’t move on and I can’t stay the same,” Fallon cries on “45”, before neatly turning it into a jubilant rallying cry. It’s a lead-off single so bright it deserves to rule the radio this summer. On the title track, the observation that “there’s nothing like another soul that’s been cut up the same” is made to sound like something to cherish.
Keepsake and Too Much Blood are two nods to the grunge era, the latter a bristling journey through the problems of confiding in both a loved one and a lyrics sheet. The almost choral climax of Biloxi Parish just might be the shimmering highlight of the whole shebang.
The criticisms are minor – a couple of tracks slide back into familiar Americana, but even then there’s no sense of the band coasting. Instead they’ve come of age by striving for brilliance. Enthralling stuff.
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Top customer reviews
It's the music that matters I know, but I should also note that the CD's booklet is also nice, with full lyrics and cool pictures.
I consider The Gaslight Anthem to be one of the best modern rock bands making music today, and it's nice to see their albums and singles breaking into the UK charts and selling well. Their fan base has clearly got bigger and bigger, because in 2012 the album climbed to no.2. Unlike me, don't delay in buying 'Handwritten', you won't regret it.
The clever thing about this record is that the whole album has a familiar feel about it in so much as the bands influences/ inspirations come through load and clear yet, somehow, the group manage to successfully retain their own unique identity. I hear plenty of Cheap Trick influences here, yet tracks like the title track and 'Biloxi Parish' evoke memories of that 'Scottish guitar' of Big Country's.
Most of the album is uptempo and has a commercial rather than hardcore edge to it but the album is anything but samey and is all the better for that. 'Keepsake' has a killer guitar riff but is melodic and restrained while single "45" and "Desire" have an anthem like quality to them. Then, to finish off we get the best song Bob Dylan never wrote in the acoustic 'National Anthem'.
I don't think this album quite has the guns to qualify as a classic album but it is a consistently good set with no fillers and plenty of tracks you will want to hear again.
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
45, Handwritten, Here Comes My Man, Mullholland Drive and Too Much Blood are instantly likeable with the Too Much Blood in-particular sounding far heavier (think KISS/70's hard rock riffs). Mullholland Drive is very much a GLA song, great lyrics and great song. Keepsake is far more anthem like with solo guitars and great lyrics - one of the longer songs on the album too. Howl is very GLA also with fast guitars and typical GLA lyrics. Biloxi Parish carries some of the 70's style heavier riffs through but isn't all that memorable a song. Desire is instantly GLA but like some of their earlier stuff, can blend into the songs before and after it. Mae is a slower affair while National Anthem is anti climactic for the album but a great melodic song in it's own right - very GLA.
Overall, I think it's a great album. Not their best in my opinion, but rarely do you hear newer, more recent albums from a band when you've already made up your mind about their sound, your favourite song or favourite album. For me it's a toss up between American Slang and The 59 Sound. Handwritten is almost as good.
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