I picked up the new Gaslight Anthem, American Slang, over the weekend and have given it a few spins. So far my first impression is that I’m a bit underwhelmed. As much as 2008’s The 59 Sound totally took me by surprise by completely blowing me out of the water, American Slang almost sinks me by seaming to take me nowhere at all. And that’s a shame ‘cos there’s a lot of high energy and passion behind these ten songs.
I’m not sure what the problem is, ‘cos I was not highly anticipating this album and so couldn’t be let down from that, and I even sorta bought it on a whim. Heck, I can even see that it’s a good album, with everything you’d expect from the Gaslight Anthem: great hooks, catchy leads, a full octane back beat and sing-a-long vocals to get the crowd going. Yet perhaps that’s the problem, it’s more of the same, which is good stuff, and yet ultimately, well, samey. Honestly though, I wouldn’t want anything different from these guys, ‘cos their Springsteen meets Morrissey approach to rock is one of the best things I’ve heard in a good five years. But when it all boils down, American Slang has no stand out tracks. There’s no Great Expectations, High Lonesome, Casanova Baby, Here’s Looking at You Kid or even a barnstorming title track that shakes the roof loose. I’ve heard this album a good ten times and not one song has stuck with me, and that’s not from lack of trying on both my part and that of the boys. Meanwhile, the line “dance upon the architecture” from Casanova Baby has been stuck in my head all night.
So what to do when you recognize a great album but can’t get a line? Well, you just set it aside for awhile, come back in a few weeks and play it again in a different setting. I’ve learned over the years that this is how I can awaken myself to an album that essentially needs a bit more time to digest, which is a good thing, ‘cos those usually stand the test of time. Basically what I’m saying is that the Gaslight Anthem may have created their masterpiece (so far) with American Slang, but I’m just too cotton eared to hear it.
I’ll keep you posted.