American Slang is The Gaslight Anthem’s follow-up to The ’59 Sound, which I have previously reviewed and stands as one of my favorite albums. The American Slang definitely has a different feel to it than ’59 Sound, though.
While ’59 sounded like Bruce Springsteen as a modern four-piece, Slang sounds more like Springsteen teamed up with Keith Richards and The Ramones. This album has a lot more prominent lead guitars, which is where you hear the biggest Stones influence. The lead guitars do hearken back to a time when lead guitar was an important part of the songwriting process, while it still keeps the raw energy and simplicity that bands like The Ramones introduced to the scene.
Gaslight Anthem is a part of the modern punk scene, which has grown from this small movement of kids wearing weird clothes and screaming at each other into this enormous, multi-headed beast. And right now, Gaslight Anthem is putting out the most exciting music from that beast.
Before I go comparing how much I like The ’59 Sound to how much I like American Slang, let me start off by just talking about American Slang. This album, as a whole, is a phenomenal album. I absolutely love most of the lead guitar work, which works with the harmonizing background vocals and lead vocals to create this multi-layered, rich sound that is missing in a lot of music. What Gaslight Anthem does on this album so well is, they write a hook for a song, then they write another hook for a song, then they write another hook for a song, and so on, then they just layer hook upon hook, making many of these songs have this infectious catchiness that is superior to anything you’ll hear on Katy Perry’s discography. This is real people playing real instruments and singing real songs about real experiences.
I wanna talk about the highs and lows of the album for a minute. The highest point on this album, my favorite song as a whole, is probably Bring It On. I’m not going to lie, I bought my red Chucks because of this song. “Stop clickin’ your red heels and wishin’ for home” is the line in question. It’s just a really good song. My least favorite song on the album, without a doubt, is We Did It When We Were Young, the slow, sad, almost emo-sounding final song on the album. It doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the album at all. This album, as a whole, is a hopeful tale of woe, if that makes sense. We’re down and out, but we’ll get through and come out on top. That’s the vibe I get from the album. The last song, though, sounds like lead singer Brian Fallon wrote the song while watching a video of his childhood best friend and his childhood dog dying in the same gory car accident on a loop. It’s a sad lament. It’s a requiem. It doesn’t fit. It’d be the best song on a different album. The lyrics are well-crafted. It just doesn’t belong here.
Now, the lowest and highest individual points on this album, they exist in the same song. The Queen of Lower Chelsea. The intro to the song, to me, sounds like a complete ripoff of Kung Fu Fighting. Don’t get me wrong, Kung Fu Fighting is an awesome song. I love it. I just think that they could’ve spent ten minutes and come up with a better guitar riff, or left it out altogether and we would’ve all been better off. The highest point is the chorus of this album. The lead vocals, layers upon layers of echoey background vocals and minimal instrumentation just makes the chorus an absolutely beautiful piece of music.
Overall, I don’t like American Slang as much as I like The ’59 Sound. If you were only going to buy one Gaslight Anthem album, I would recommend The ’59 Sound without hesitation*. However, with that said, I do think that American Slang is still a step above most rock and roll being produced nowadays. These guys should be the torchbearers for rock and roll moving forward, once the Foo Fighters decide to pass that torch along. These guys could very easily be the future of rock and roll music. They’re that good. This is a great album. I would recommend it to pretty much anyone, and that includes you.
Also, their lead singer is a short guy like me, so I feel some solidarity there.
*: They also have an album titled Sink or Swim, which I haven’t yet heard.