The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang


The ’59 Sound, Gaslight Anthem’s 2008 release, got a lot of comparisons to Springsteen. That was fair enough as there is no doubt that the band’s sound was influenced by the godfather of their home state’s rock and roll scene. However, what seemed to get lost in those comparisons, was that weren’t simply Springsteen imitators even as his mark on them was clearly heard.

On their new album, American Slang, we can’t be so lazy as to draw simple parallels between New Jersey’s old and new guard. Much more of Gaslight Anthem’s rich musical heritage bubbles to the surface, some obvious and some subtle. Van Morrison’s soulfulness comes out on "The Diamond Church Street Choir." "We Did It When We Were Young" has U2’s ability to be urgent on a slow number. Throughout though, the key is that Gaslight Anthem isn’t some cheap imitator, stealing at will from recognized greats. Instead, they tap not only into the sounds, but into something deeper, something that gave all of these artists real staying power that has transcended generations. A big part of that is that they listen to that great muse, melancholy, yet they aren’t satisfied that its superficial view is sufficient to express the real human experience. They understand that melancholy needs hope to strain against it and that hope has been abundant in their music, particularly on American Slang. Odds are Gaslight Anthem will stick with us just as those artists that have found their way into these albums despite being generations removed have.

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