One of the hardest things a great band struggles with is how to incorporate its influences in its music while still forging its own musical identity. It is so easy for a band to fall into the trap of sounding too much like its influences and then getting accused of being a just a ripoff.
That said, the New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem will never have that problem, at least based on what it has accomplished on its latest CD, the fantastic The 59 Sound. Yes, people will undoubtedly compare The Gaslight Anthem to Bruce Springsteen and with good reason considering where they both come from and the propensity of both to record songs that tell stories.
Still, The Gaslight Anthem have made a name for itself on The 59 Sound as every song on the recording is chock full of other influences such as punk rock, classic rock, and most impressively, soul music. That last aspect is what makes The 59 Sound such a winner as there is a passion on all of the 12 songs here that is rarely seen in rock music nowadays.
Some of the credit for this should go to lead singer Brian Fallon whose raspy vocals aren’t necessarily your classic definition of soul but his inspired singing definitely is. Fallon shows that Otis Redding and Sam Cooke are as big of an influence on him as Springsteen is with his performance on such tracks as “Film Noir” and “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.”
And yet, as good as Fallon is here on The 59 Sound, the rest of The Gaslight Anthem–bassist Alex Levine, drummer Benny Horowitz, and guitarist Alex Rosamilia–shines just as brightly. Even though the band has only been together for three years, they sound as tight as a band that has been playing for three decades. Rosamilia’s guitar sparkles in a beautifully non-flashy way on tracks such as the arena-ready title track and “The Patient Ferris Wheel” while Horowitz’s muscular drumming is perfect throughout the entire CD.
With every song on this recording memorable, it is hard to pick out the standout tracks but two that resonate the most are “Miles Davis and the Cool” and “Meet Me By The River’s Edge.” Both songs are extra special because of the nostalgic lyrical content. The former track obviously is about Birth of the Cool era Miles Davis but it also is about one’s longing for someone close to come home. As for the latter song, the Springsteen influence comes out almost immediately as Fallon name checks previous songs from the Boss and then tells a familiar, yet interesting story of someone wanting to leave home for a perceived better place.
Probably the best aspect to The 59 Sound, however, is while the CD is dripping with nostalgia (the recording even opens with the sound of a needle hitting a record); it sounds timeless. The CD would fit fine back in the 70s and 80s when Springsteen and Tom Petty ruled but it also fits perfectly now with the popularity with such modern rock acts like the Killers.
The only complaint that one can possibly muster about The 59 Sound is that The Gaslight Anthem have tempered some of their early punkish tendencies here. Yet, that hardly matters much because Fallon and his bandmates have created something that is near impossible to stop listening to–something that will probably end up as being one of the top releases in 2008.
Words By: Todd Sikorski[Rating: 4.5/5]