Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
Album: Get Hurt
Release Date: August 12th, 2014
By Al Downham. On their fifth album, Get Hurt, punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem seek to create a modern twist on their all-American sound. However, much like their rugged 50’s image, it’s trapped in a time box.
Brian Fallon, the vocalist of the New Jersey group, recalls being forced out of his comfort zone as he brought new musical toys and inspiration into the writing process. From guitar effects and synthesizers to a recent divorce, Fallon and the band wrote 12 songs with these new influences in mind.
Get Hurt and Stay Vicious – two singles on the album – best display the band’s new, experimental side. The title track is about love lost, featuring lonely chords swelling to a slow but steady bass drum. Fallon’s wailing voice and bright synth keys take turns as lead, sounding similar to an early E-Street ballad. Stay Vicious is the heaviest tune on the album, filled with buzzing guitars and gunshot snare hits. Fallon grumbles spiteful lyrics such as, “And I feel just like a murderer, And I feel just like a gun” before his vocals are later interrupted by a short, but screeching solo.
Apart from the singles, the effects are bells and whistles added onto Gaslight’s familiar song writing, some more effective than others. In Ain’t That A Shame, the whammy effect on the call-out riff is tacked on. Meanwhile, the shrill drone on acoustic track Break Your Heart creates a weightless atmosphere, resembling the intro to The 1975’s debut album.
Get Hurt contains the vibrant guitars and raspy vocals fans expect from Gaslight, but their iconic sound and image has been watered down while trying to incorporate new influences. Fallon’s lyrics are relatable and punchy, but his third-person storytelling outmatches his new songs about heartbreak, no matter how cleverly he employs clichés. Lines like, “All of my friends wanna get into heaven, And all I keep thinkin’ is ‘I wish you were here’” in Rollin’ and Tumblin are hard-hitting, but Fallon’s rusted, urban writing style has been polished away; the vivid images of cigarettes, American muscle and old-time radio are hazy.
The band’s edge was cleaned away during Get Hurt’s production as well. Producer Mike Crossey – who has collaborated with Arctic Monkeys and The 1975 – polished the group’s sound, but only produced with new inspirations in mind, forgetting their original stripped down sound. The production doesn’t quite match the laid back element of Gaslight’s sound.
Gaslight’s Get Hurt has successes exploring new territory and still shares some nostalgic charm that made 59’ Sound and American Slang so likeable. But the band is clearly torn between something new or classic, and the two inevitably clash. Nevertheless, the New Jersey punk rockers have shown that a new squeaky-clean sound is possibly on the way with this next release.
Get Hurt is out today August 12th, through Island Records/Universal Music Canada. They will next play Ottawa Folk Fest in Ottawa on September 14th.
Get Hurt tracklisting:
1. Stay Vicious
2. 1,000 Years
3. Get Hurt
4. Stray Paper
5. Helter Skeleton
6. Underneath The Ground
7. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
8. Red Violins
9. Selected Poems
10. Ain’t That A Shame
11. Break Your Heart
12. Dark Places
13. Sweet Morphine (Deluxe version only)
14. Mama’s Boys (Deluxe version only)
15. Halloween (Deluxe version only)
16. Have Mercy (Bonus – iTunes ONLY)