The Gaslight Anthem maintain and even augment their status as America's rock n' roll darlings with perhaps their finest album to date.
This is indeed high praise as it is hardly as if they have been sitting on their laurels during their ten year career. Sink or Swim burst onto the scene with it's raw, punky sound. This was followed by seminal LP The '59 Sound, which won the hearts and minds of a majority of listeners. American Slang continued in much the same vein, while Handwritten was brilliant at times and less memorable in parts also. One thematic trend that has underpinned the Anthem, has been their pointedly american sound and the continuation of the Jersey-style, gritty rock n'roll. For the die-hard fans, this theme remains, albeit in a slightly more diluted format than previous offerings.
The talk before release (and there was a lot of it), was that the band was trying something new, sonically/musically etc. 'See this band do things they have never done before!' read one e-mail that hit the inbox before it's release; I am still unsure of what it is they mean. The music is slightly different in parts, yet in all honesty, this is clearly still The Gaslight Anthem and what the fans love about them.
The album opens with the raw, brooding 'Stay Vicious' which although is a little heavier and darker than usual, retains a lot of integral Gaslight qualities. Not least, the lyrics where Brian Fallon roars out, 'the arms that used to hold me, well now they have done me harm.' This is the underlying theme of this record; lost love, betrayal and indeed pain. We are of course talking about an album entitled Get Hurt where the front cover depicts a large inverted heart.
Something is most certainly amiss in the world of GTA, as we begin to learn quickly. In case the listener was in any doubt, Fallon continues, 'I feel just like a murder, I feel just like a gun, I have been shaking in the hands of somebody who has finally had enough.' They say despair breeds creativity, with this album, I have to concur.
The powerful verse bleeds into a stripped down beautiful chorus where Fallon whispers, 'your black heels kick out the beat of my heart in perfect time.' This is a man who has indeed got hurt and as much as I wish Brian Fallon all the best, the music has been fuel-injected as a consequence.
'1000 Years' is another mid-paced rocky number that keeps the energy of the album up, containing a beautiful refrain and a better chorus.
The pace of the album changes, however the tone remains the same with title track, 'Get Hurt.' A pioneering ballad that explodes into life where Fallon explains, 'I came to get hurt, might as well do your worst to me,' a shot perhaps at the lover who has ended his relationship.
The pace returns with another highlight, 'Stray Paper,' which commences with Fallon screaming, 'You better never tell nobody but God, all the things I have seen.' The pattern is indeed emerging of the wounded lovelorn balladeer and this album is his cathartic response. Fallon however is not holding back, where on 2012's Handwritten, he sang about 'too much blood on the page,' this time he spits, 'all my love becomes blood on stray paper.' How times have changed.
The direct approach continues on 'Rollin' And Tumblin' another foot-stomping corker, where the singer discusses his subject's friends, 'I heard that they been calling me the Great Depression...' A clear, reference to the Economic Downturn when the Stock Market crashed in 1929. He continues the self-deprecating tone and cyclical pattern of the lyrics at the end of the song, where he concludes, ' I hope you got all my letters, signed the Great Depression.' A nod to the misery and depression, he has been labelled with exuding.
'Red Violins,' 'Selected Poems' and Ain't that a Shame' are solid, rocky album tracks. 'Red Violins' is a grower despite being one of the least exciting songs on the album and 'Aint That A Shame' contains the immortal line, 'I am vicious now honey, cruel and insatiable,' another response to the ever-present theme of the album and the despair the listener is privy to.
'Break your Heart' is the standard Gaslight ballad and does not disappoint but the album sparks back into life with closer, 'Dark Places.' The final ode to the love he has lost, Fallon delves deep into the heart of the relationship and muses over a powerful, harmonized sound why it all wrong.
'How many nights did I crash against the waves?' He asks, before digressing, 'I changed and changed and kept on saying, one of these days something inside is going to break.' Perhaps this is a final paean to his love, perhaps he is sounding it's death knell. Either way the album ends on a blistering, emotive high.
Get Hurt, is a powerhouse of songwriting and lyrical brilliance. Just when you think a band have reached the end of the line, as Brian says himself, he didn't think there were any more Gaslight songs, there are and they sound better than ever.
This album is the sound of a boxer up against the ropes, taking the hits and giving their best shots back. Luckily for music fans the boxer happens to be possibly the greatest songwriter of our generation and the shots hit their target every time.
Long live The Gaslight Anthem, they have done it again!