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Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem - 'American Slang' (Sideonedummy)

Brian Fallon’s still offering up well-crafted tales of American life – but this time, something’s missing

Album Review: The Gaslight Anthem - 'American Slang' (Sideonedummy)

7 / 10 For many people, [b]The Gaslight Anthem[/b] were a revelation last summer. Since [b]‘The ’59 Sound’[/b] edged its way out of the bedrooms of the faithful and into wider consciousness – thanks in no small part to the patronage of [b]Bruce Springsteen[/b] – they’ve been on something of a victory lap, playing the same songs tour after tour as the venues expand appropriately. That album was a happy mongrel, stitched together using offcuts from frontman Brian Fallon’s record collection bound up with his ineffable songwriting skills. But its follow-up, [b]‘American Slang’[/b], is a very different beast.

That’s not to say there aren’t any similarities: Alex Rosamilia’s twinkling guitar still wraps itself around Fallon’s bronzed street poetry like an embrace, with [b]‘Boxer’[/b], [b]‘Stay Lucky’[/b] and the title track especially garlanded, and Fallon himself still has the same eye for detail that made their [b]‘Señor And The Queen’[/b] EP such an emotional bullet back in ’08. [b]‘The Diamond Street Church Choir’[/b] has the irresistible soul swing of the ’50s rock’n’roll that informed [b]‘’59…’[/b] and [b]‘We Did It When We Were Young’[/b] pulls the classic trick of being desperately sad and intensely hopeful at the same time.

When Gaslight are in full flight, as they are on much of [b]‘…Slang’[/b], they feel like the only band in the world who have ever mattered.Trouble is, Fallon has spoken of [b]‘American Slang’[/b] being the first time he’s really used his own words to sing more personal stories, and that bold approach has led to a self-consciousness that handicaps the album. It feels like he – and by extension the rest of the band – are holding back slightly on [b]‘The Queen Of Lower Chelsea’[/b], which is speckled with tiny moments of wonder rather than beautiful throughout, and the slightly turgid [b]‘Old Haunts’[/b]. The Gaslight of old would have made [b]‘The Spirit Of Jazz’[/b] sound effortless not laboured, and it’s unclear just why the band’s supposed new-found confidence in their own collective voice sounds so nervous. It’s not like Fallon wants for creativity (check out his acoustic split seven-inch with Chuck Ragan for proof he can chuck out fine songs at will) but that final push that made the last album such a treat is missing.

Slimmed down to a chunky EP, this album would be a surefire 10/10 – snip a verse, bolt some of the more transcendent choruses to each other, whammo. Such was their impact over the last couple of years it’s fair to say Gaslight are a band who have made people’s lives immeasurably better simply by existing; [b]‘American Slang’[/b] won’t change anyone’s world and it’s unfair to punish it for not, but we just hoped for… more.

[b]Rob Parker[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

Click here to get your copy of The Gaslight Anthem's 'American Slang' from the Rough Trade shop

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