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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.
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window--This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Song by song:
1. '45' 10/10 - Awesome song and absolutely perfect start to the album. The sing along chorus gets you hooked straight away and the lyrics have some real passion and heart behind them, as we've come to expect from Gaslight.
2. Handwritten 9/10 - ANother great song. Really touching lyrics in this one and the vocals are very good throughout. My only issue is I'm not too fond of the 'woh-oh' vocals in the intro.
3. Here Comes My Man 7/10 - Good song seemingly written from a woman's perspective. Intro is a bit bland compared with other songs on the album.
4. Mulholland Drive 8/10 - This is a really great song with another great chorus. Really liking the guitar + solo in this one and the outro will definitely have you singing along.
5. Keepsake 8/10 - A bit of a darker feel in this song. The verses are very good with some good use of backing vocals. The chorus is very grand and you can hear the emotion in Fallon's voice. The interlude section could have progressed the song more I feel though.
6. Too Much Blood 8/10 - Very strong verse vocals from Fallon here in a more classic rock style. Chorus is really good and the lyrics throughout are awesome.
7. Howl 8/10 - This is a great fast-paced catchy song which is a bit more reminiscent of 'Sink or Swim'. LIke the lyrics in this one aswell - 'Does anything still move you, since you're educated now?'.
8.Read more ›
Brendan O'Brien - who did so much to wreck Springsteen's recent output, is at the controls. Fallon seems to like him, but I sure don't. He makes Fallon's voice sound forced on nearly every track, and the vocals lack the colour and subtlety achieved on '59 Sound' and 'American Slang'. The band is still tight as a drum, but not as imaginative as on the previous two records. Also, Fallon is now very much the 'writer' and his self consciousness grates a bit.
That being said, the Gaslight are just full of energy, ideas, songs and sheer balls to blow away most bands. I particularly like 45, Mulholland Drive, Too Much Blood, Handwritten, etc. The covers at the end of the deluxe are good, but not essential except for fans.
They are a great live band, and are playing the UK behind this in the autumn. Very well worth seeing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've only played this once so far, but it sounds a solid album, from a good band. "The 59 Sound" is still their best for me...Published 7 months ago by Mr. D. G. Medley
Have just heard this album again after a year or so and to say that it has grown on me is an understatement. Read morePublished 13 months ago by John Hyder-Wilson