The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten album review

In the wake of summer slowly but surely coming to an end, I’ve been forced to find that certain album that defines my summer. Y’know, that summer soundtrack. Or, at the very least, an album that I actually want to listen to. My bitter soon-to-be-student-again self has now been handed the task of reviewing The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten, New Brunswick (*cough*New Jersey*cough*) punk indie rockers’ fourth full-length. Wait – fourth? These guys have four albums out already? Surely they’ve run out of steam! Sorry to burst your skeptical bubble,  my imaginary friend – but it doesn’t seem like they have. Although, I can’t say the same about my summer.

Talk about kicking off the record with a bang: “45” is a skillfully crafted track that immediately got stuck in my head. Brian Fallon’s folk punk vocals are always a real breath of fresh air to me, and it’s no different with this album. He’s got that pizzazz in his voice to really compliment the backing instrument tracks. Fierce drums, sharp guitars that aren’t overly distorted, and the bass – well, it’s there somewhere. Some highlights: “Mulholland Drive” has a really jazzy guitar solo to mix things up, rather than going for a heavily distorted one, and “Too Much Blood” resounds as a great ballad about a man pouring his heart out.

Now now, Jake – you can’t go too easy on this band. You’re right, Jake, I can’t.

There are shortcomings, and it really comes down to one big fault: where’s the differentiation, guys? A lot of the tracks could use something to identify them. You know when you go a show, and you don’t know the band that well, and they decide to play a bunch of songs you don’t know, and you can’t tell the difference between the songs, and you go home tossing and turning in your sleep because you can’t figure out which song was which? No? Alright.

American Slang had a lot going for it because they decided to change things up with a handful of the songs. With Handwritten, omitting the beautifully soulful “National Anthem,” we get a lot of the same fast-paced indie punk. The thing is, I can’t bash it. It’s good. It works. “Howl” is fast and fun, while “Desire” is multi-layered and fiery. I can’t complain.

It’s not going to be the album that defines my summer, but it sure as hell is solid. Stop being whiny and enjoy this before you have to head back to class, or something. Jeez.

By Jake Mullan

I go to a lot of shows. I listen to a lot of music. I write. I take pictures. Y'know, that kind of stuff.

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