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Album review: Gaslight Anthem, "American Slang"


By Patrick Foster

Though many have tried, Gaslight Anthem might be the first millennial band to truly crack the Dad Rock market. "American Slang," the Jersey quartet's third salvo, grinds their Petty, Springsteen, Strummer and Westerberg-isms to a wickedly fine edge, while leader Brian Fallon heaps on enough grandiose blue-collar poetry to fill a hundred skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets. The 10-track album radiates a sweaty, radio-ready rock vibrancy that could easily sweep across demographic boundaries.

Gaslight Anthem began as an earnest, Warped Tour-style punk troupe, but gained widespread notice with 2008's "The '59 Sound," which pundits lauded for its tactile emotionalism and brawny singalong moments. "American Slang" continues that approach, but trims the bluster, steaming by in 34 minutes.

Keyed by the title track - a sharp reworking of "Damn the Torpedoes"-era Petty - Fallon's husky lead vocals are beefed up with fist-pump harmonies and punkish backbeats. "Stay Lucky," "Boxer" and the tightly wound "Orphans" all pump like well-lubed pistons, aided by production that strikes an adroit balance between gritty and sensitive. Fallon does sensitive pretty good, though, as "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" and the we-ain't-as-young-as-we-used- to-be ballad "We Did It When We Were Young" prove. (The hint of Tom Waits wistfulness that appears in the latter bodes well for the Anthem's long-term prospects.)

The album's linchpin, though, is "The Diamond Church Street Choir," a slick ditty with just enough finger-snapping Motown swing to have Fallon's supporters rhapsodizing over his artistic growth. That point's debatable; that "American Slang" will considerably raise the Gaslight Anthem's profile is not.

Recommended tracks:
"American Slang," "Orphans," "The Diamond Church Street Choir"

By David Malitz  |  June 15, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Gaslight Anthem  
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