Following up on 2008â€™s breakthrough album, The â€™59 Sound, was never going to be an easy task for New Jerseyâ€™s â€śpunk band for grown-upsâ€ť, The Gaslight Anthem. Now renowned for their subtle guitar hooks and in the unmistakable tone of signer/guitarist Brian Fallonâ€™s vocals, expectations were high. For those unfamiliar, imagine a toned-down Rise Against or, as has been pointed out many times over the bandâ€™s young career, a harder edged version of Bruce Springsteen.
Starting strong with title-track and lead single, â€śAmerican Slangâ€ť, things pick up right where The â€™59 Sound left off, with charging drums keeping the more subdued (in punk circles) guitar styles of Fallon and lead axe-smith Alex Rosamilia focused and pointing in the right direction. The chorus hook on this track is as catchy as anything the band has ever released in the past; and as is often the case with this group, the backing vocals make the song.
The subject matter of the album is very autobiographical, with plenty of songs about New Jersey and New York, loves lost and nostalgia for a time that mightnâ€™t have ever been.
Side 2 of this album though is definitely the stronger of the two, with tracks like â€śOld Hauntsâ€ť with its intoxicating drum-beats and â€śThe Spirit of Jazzâ€ť proving that the band has managed growth while not abandoning their trademark styling: lyrically these are incredibly strong songs, filled out superbly by the rest of the players.
Delving further though, this album does have its clunkers. The guitar melody of â€śThe Queen of Lower Chelseaâ€ť seems far too basic and obvious than one would expect from the Gaslight Anthem and perhaps could have been left in the B-side pile.
The production on American Slang is slick and smooth, though not over-produced; and the album and is a solid continuation of the bandâ€™s maturity, but is definitely lacking that je ne sais quoi that blessed The â€™59 Sound. Still, a solid effort and worthy addition to any rock fanâ€™s music library.
Â© Steve Pass, Music Vice