Sunday, May 1, 2011

American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem

American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem
Label: Side One Dummy
Released June 15th, 2010

Plot Summary: The Gaslight Anthem are a rock and roll quartet from New Jersey. American Slang is their third full-length album. As with their other albums, The Gaslight Anthem's songs are inspired by rock artists like Bruce Springsteen and sing almost story-driven songs about love, loss, and friendship. In the title track, lead singer Brian Fallon croons, "And here's where we died that time last year/And here's where the angels and devils meet/And you can dance with the queen if you need/And she will always keep your cards." The album has a simple production with clean guitars, low thumping bass, and a bit of an echo or reverb on Fallon's vocals. Guitarist Alex Rosamilia quietly plays blues-inspired riffs over Fallon's simple, punk-inspired chord progressions.

Critical Analysis: The Gaslight Anthem are one of the few bands I have come across that appeal to nearly all ages. Perhaps due to their heavy Bruce Springsteen influence and rock 'n roll inspiration, older people seem to enjoy it. Fallon's good looks and his ability to write absolutely arena-like choruses and hooks attract the band to nearly everyone else. Unlike many other modern punk-inspired rock bands, Fallon's lyrics are nuanced and relatable. Throughout American Slang, he refers back to "characters" from previous songs, such as the Queen of the Diamond Street Church Choir.

Much like Bruce Springsteen, Fallon knows how to draw the listener in with not only hooks, but story-like lyrics. Take the opening verse of "The Diamond Street Church Choir," for example. Fallon sings, "Now the lights go low on the avenue/And the cars pass by in the rain/University boys and the girls fill the bars/While I'm just waiting for the light to change." Fallon's simple but evocative imagery brings the listener in for a more personal experience when listening to his music.

The Gaslight Anthem are not amazing as musicians, but this is part of their strength as well. Adopting the punk attitude, Fallon and company opt for short songs with simple chord progressions and generally avoid lengthy guitar solos. This truly allows Fallon's suberb lyrics and songwriting to shine, which is The Gaslight Anthem's strength.

Reader's Annotation: The Gaslight Anthem combine the story-driven lyrics of artists like Bruce Springsteen and the anthemic choruses of bands like Against Me! or Rise Against.

Author Information: As previously mentioned, The Gaslight Anthem are a quartet from New Jersey. Their debut album, Sink or Swim, was released only four years ago on XOXO Records to critical acclaim. This garnered attention from Side One Dummy, one of the larger independent rock/punk labels. The Gaslight Anthem then released the '59 Sound, a bit of a departure from the gruff vocals and fast-paced songs of their debut album. With American Slang, The Gaslight Anthem have gotten media attention from magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone and are showing no signs of stopping.

Genre: rock and roll, punk, rock

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Challenge Issues: N/A

Why I included this title: As I previously mentioned, The Gaslight Anthem have a wide appeal across all ages, so it would not at all be a stretch for a teen to listen to them. In fact, I often recommend this album to teens in the library with success. The choruses are catchy, the lyrics are relatable and clever, there's little else to ask for in an album.

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