Music News

The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

Artist: The Gaslight Anthem

Title: American Slang
Release date: June 15
Label: Side One Dummy

Okay, I'm suddenly having a hard time keeping straight my Gaslight Anthems and my Hold Steadies and my Against Me!'s. 

All three acts are critical darlings who have released albums in the past six weeks. All three seem to be laying claim to that "voice of the common man" label (as personified over the past 35 years by Mr. Bruce Springsteen, an obvious influence on each band). All claim to have roots in Punk Rock™. And all three sound quite similar, differing only by varying degrees of melodic scratchiness in the lead vocals and overall rockin'-out-ness.

Probably the most heralded of the three bands is The Gaslight Anthem, the scruffiest of the bunch as well as the newest on the scene -- and the one band that actually comes from Springsteen-land. But for my money, they're the least accomplished of the three.

I really was looking forward to hearing American Slang, but after four listens, I feel let down. I was simply hoping for a little -- just a little -- more. More good songs. More fist-pumpers. More edge. Mostly, more reason for me to think that The Gaslight Anthem should stand out among the nearly 150 records I've listened to this year.

Seriously, this is the band so many people are so excited about? There's nothing wrong with the songs. They're perfectly acceptable, but they're nothing special, especially when stacked up against those of their peers -- Against Me! kicks up more dust and The Hold Steady create a more immediate connection with its vivid narrative lyrics. 

And since we can't not write about these bands with invoking The Boss' name, I'll say that Against Me! and The Hold Steady recall the spirit, energy, and lyricism of Springsteen. The Gaslight Anthem mostly just remind me of The Goo Goo Dolls or the band that the GGD's tried to copy, The Replacements.
Best song: "American Slang"
Rotation: Low-medium
Deja vu: Post-Bob Stinson Replacements
I'd rather listen to: Bob Stinson-era Replacements
Grade: C-

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett