Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gaslight Anthem Gets Hurt Sometimes

The Gaslight Anthem
New Brunswick rockers The Gaslight Anthem have returned with their highly anticipated fifth full length. The 16-track monster, Get Hurt, opens with an anthemic evenness before pushing the band ttoward a stripped back and raw rock n' roll as the album progresses.

It feels all together heavier and more intimate, with a wildly diverse range of influences. Whether you hear folk, punk, Americana, or something heavier depends largely on where you drop the needle. For added scruff and roughness, drop it on the bottom eight before the top eight.

Get Hurt is a growler from The Gaslight Anthem. 

If you get the sense that the album wants almost desperately to be depressingly epic, there might be some truth to it. Brian Fallon (vocals, guitar) and his wife of 10 years divorced. He poured plenty of the emotions he felt into the album, knowing not everyone would like it.

The title track, Get Hurt, is no exception. It's tied directly to the pain of divorce and the bittersweet opportunities to change that present themselves. Anything is possible when nothing ties us down.

Incidentally, the last verse steers the state of things away from depression. Fallon guesses at all the reasons why things fell apart in his relationship. Any of them are plausible. We don't always know.

As the title track, Get Hurt is unquestionably the most accessible and commercial. The opener Stay Vicious isn't as it teeters between indie pop and heavy handed rock. It's not an easy song to like, despite brilliantly splitting how people feel at the front end and tail end of a relationship.

Expect the top eight to carry the most polish. Only Rollin' and Tumblin' and Helter Skeleton hint at the idea that this band once debuted as a badass punk-infused basement rocker. And while there is nothing wring with smoother stylings from Alex Rosamilia (guitar), Alex Levine (bass), and Benny Horowitz (drums), I've always liked their edge better. Their Get Dirty EP is still a favorite.

Overall, the album kicks it up a notch at Selected Poems where Fallon does a fabulous job transitioning the entire track from a blissful rocker to a bluesy wake up. The band follows it up with Ain't That A Shame, which brings to bear a tenuous and catchy chorus that makes his love a plague.

Break Your Heat is a breathtaking album ballad, heartfelt and introspective. Sweet Morphine pines away for the loss of one thing you on which you can rely. Mama's Boys breaks the band down into a barroom foursome. Both Halloween and Have Mercy provide a surprising wrap up to the album with the former picking up some punk influences and the latter ending on a soft-spoken and apologetic goodbye.

Some critics were quick to say that the music felt like it was written from the outside in and that might be a fair assessment. But then again, Fallon has never struck me as someone who breaks down and writes from the inside out. He is much more inclined to look at everything objectively and then pinpoint whatever emotion or hurt that feels most universally true.

There are some trade offs in taking such an approach, but it often results in giving some of the songs on this album a very classic feel. By classic, I mean that some of them are occasionally reminiscent of eighties adult contemporary. Is that bad? It depends on your perspective, which is probably why I lean toward the bottom eight.

Get Hurt By The Gaslight Anthem Wrangles 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While the album has some pedestrian undercurrents, The Gaslight Anthem  assembles enough solid material to make Get Hurt worthwhile. With 16 tracks, it ought to be easy enough to carve out 8 or 10 of them.

You can find Get Hurt (Deluxe) by The Gaslight Anthem on Amazon or download it from iTunes. Barnes & Noble carries Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem on vinyl. For touring information, visit them on Facebook. The album was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville with producer Mike Crossey (The 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg).
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