The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten (Cover Artwork)

The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem: HandwrittenHandwritten (2012)
Universal Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: BryneBryne
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The tale has been told ad nauseum, with a mostly consistent narrative: A popular band rise through the independent scene with hard work and great songwriting. The major labels come calling. The band sign, giddy at the prospect of an even larger platform for their music. Fearing outright rejection (o.
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The tale has been told ad nauseum, with a mostly consistent narrative: A popular band rise through the independent scene with hard work and great songwriting. The major labels come calling. The band sign, giddy at the prospect of an even larger platform for their music. Fearing outright rejection (or under the influence of overbearing label suits), they write and record a "safe" major label debut, alienate their core fanbase and usually don't end up successful.

Luckily, this narrative never applied to the Gaslight Anthem, because even going back to 2007's Sink or Swim, their songs have been arena-ready. They did it right by sticking with SideOneDummy through 2010's excellent American Slang; they likely could've made the jump after Sink or Swim, but would they still be a band today if they had? Would their fanbase be as rabid as they are? Given the way majors tend to chew up bands and spit them out, it's hard to say.

Safe is generally a dirty word when it comes to a band's progression, but not in the case of TGA–crafting timelessly accessible music with roots in punk, classic rock and soul has always been their M.O. That continues on Handwritten, the band's fourth album and first for Mercury.

Handwritten is a Gaslight Anthem album through and through. The band, more so than ever before, seamlessly merge classic and contemporary influences in their songwriting, and not since 2008's fan favorite The ??59 Sound has frontman Brian Fallon sounded so assured or wholly charismatic. Fallon's always been a talented vocalist, but opener "45" makes his improvements immediately apparent: His ability to belt out the words here and match the driving intensity of the band behind him is impressive. Would he have been able to keep up five years ago?

Gaslight's knack for huge choruses, one of their strongest attributes, continues on Handwritten. The title track in particular is somberly played, but the manner in which the chorus escalates without sacrificing said somberness is notable, largely thanks to the solid work of drummer Benny Horowitz.

Lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia, well known by now for his heavy hand in making Gaslight's sound unique with his talented soloing, shines on tracks like "Mulholland Drive" and "Keepsake." His playing could be referred to as calculated risk after calculated risk, but his ability to fit these solos into the band's mostly traditional framework is a testament to his skill.

But what of the band's punk influences? "Howl" is the best example of it on Handwritten, and it's perhaps the most direct song Gaslight have released since "Wooderson"–Hell, it doesn't even really have a chorus. It's also a nice bridge between the plodding, five-minute "Too Much Blood" and the bluesy, heavy "Biloxi Parish," the latter of which has been a recurring part of the band's live set for the better part of a year and is anchored by another blistering solo from Rosamilia.

"Mae" and "National Anthem" close out Handwritten on slower notes, with Fallon shining by channeling one of his idols, Bruce Springsteen: The former, with its quiet drums, melancholy guitar work and strained vocals is reminiscent of some of the Boss' best material on Born To Run, while the latter goes for something a little more Nebraska-esque with a gently strummed acoustic guitar, Fallon's echoey vocals and little else.

Brendan O'Brien, by all accounts a big name rock producer, is behind the glass for Handwritten and to his credit, he doesn't try to steer Gaslight's sound toward something it shouldn't be. Instead, the band sound like an assured group of veterans (which they aren't, really; due to their prolific nature, it's easy to forget that they've only been around since 2006) that have come into their own as musicians and songwriters, atypical timing for a major label debut. But then again, the Gaslight Anthem are an extremely special band. Their ascent, meteoric as it has been, will only continue with the release of Handwritten.


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsHot Water Music - ExisterThe Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Horrible Crowes - ElsieFrank Turner - England Keep My BonesDescendents - Milo Goes To College

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Qrobur (January 5, 2013)

This album is not punk. Okay, that's not a cardinal offence. However, neither is it a good rock record. At most it's a competent effort lacking in inspiration.

hbwlons (November 4, 2012)

I like this alot more than american slang

hbwlons (November 4, 2012)

I like this alot more than american slang

Marchelo (August 23, 2012)

The more i listen to it the more convinced i am that this is way better than American Slang (not that that was a bad album or something, but it just felt like 'good') and that it lands right below from 59' Sound, but yet if i rarely give an album more than 4,5/5 I could adjust my review to 5/5 in a couple weeks if this keeps growing like it's been doing since it came out. I really like most songs, the 'fast' and heavy ones and yet the sweet and slow ones. I really do. Geez i might be falling in love and I most recently had only felt in love with Nothington's Roads, Bridges & Ruins, and it's been quite a fucking while.

FranklinStein (August 10, 2012)

The ending for Blue Dahlia is a contender for the best part of this album. I love the fuck out of that song.

bowlercap (August 6, 2012)

Looks like punknews likes Gaslight Anthem again.

zeroeffects88 (July 31, 2012)

The only thing that sucks about his album is the shitty cover.

zeroeffects88 (July 31, 2012)

Excellent album. I see the usual punknews hipsters and cynics are out in full force in the comment section, but I don't know how any self respecting music fan can listen to some of the songs on this album and not get chills. Best tracks: Howl, Mae, 45, Here Comes My Man.

Piata (July 30, 2012)

Better than American Slang but still not nearly as good as their earlier stuff. Aside from 45, it all feels too mellow.

77Punker (July 30, 2012)

45 could be their best song yet. Overall though, this is a slight step down from American Slang & not even close to '59 Sound.

waffleIron (July 30, 2012)

This band sucks. You people suck

telegraphrocks (July 29, 2012)

Decent. Everything else they've done is better.

RadToTheMax (July 28, 2012)

Yo, this shit mad sucks and I totally dig The '59 Sound. So yeah.

Moop (July 28, 2012)

i know everyone shits on American Slang. but i liked it better than this.. if American slang had a thicker sound.. it wouldve been great. but this album is meh after 2 songs until biloxi parish.. and then its meh again.. it starts off with 45 and trails off.. maybe im just too old.. or to simple.. but ill leave these guys for the kids who want to circle pit to Casanova Baby.

plus the over dubbed vocals some songs bug the shit outta me.. it reminds me GnR records.. and axls three layers of vocals.

RottenBones (July 27, 2012)

45 is the best gaslight song out of all their albums, but other than that the album is kinda boring a lot of the time, it's more than okay, but less than great

warbrain (July 27, 2012)

this would make a perfect EP with 45, handwritten, howl, desire and national anthem but those other songs are just plain boring, especially those awful blues-y songs like Too much blood.

jizzo (July 27, 2012)

By the way some guys were saying about bands that change it up every album like NOFX and few others they mentioned, I believe the only band that has truely changed it up with every single record is the almighty PROPAGANDHI.. you just never know what tho expect with those guys? lyrics yea, but music can't even speculate

jizzo (July 27, 2012)

Some of the posts said that "Fallon is the greatest songwriter of our time" Fallon is a prophet" and GLA is this and that the other. I mean come on people you really need to start expanding your taste a bit more if you really believe that. It's a sub-par radio friendly rock record and nothing more, nothing less. It's OK, The only thing noteable is that legend producer Brendan O'brien was at the helm, which is a big reason for the Springsteen sound.

smarttrigger (July 27, 2012)

Good album. Def better than American Slang.

originaljohnny (July 27, 2012)

i have relatively complex feelings about this record. overall i think it's very good and a HUGE, HUGE step back in the right direction since american slang (easily their worst record, but that's another discussion). to me, despite being great - this band is sort of suffering from a bit of a redundancy crisis. before i elaborate let me say that i think brian fallon is an absolutely brilliant songwriter, despite the use of the same few tools, if you will.

now, i don't necessarily mind all that much that they use the same few chord progressions every album, but to me - the songs that grab me most on this album are the ones where they explore a SOMEWHAT different dynamic with these chords/melodies than they have before. examples of this would be too much blood, the biloxi parish chorus, parts of desire, and 45. i don't want to ruin this for anyone but, some songs on this that appear pretty damn good on the surface sound at times like carbon copies of earlier fallon work. examples: handwritten chorus = old white lincoln intro/verse, mullholland drive chorus = go tell everybody (elsie) chorus. and to me, not only are some of the songs on this record simply soundling like old gaslight/fallon material, parts of tracks 2, 3, 4, & 5 (handwritten, here comes my man, mullholland drive, keepsake) sound like their almost the same song (same dark key, etc just different tempos). on the bright side, this album excels where american slang failed: better lyrics, better/bigger hooks and choruses, great vocal melodies, guitar work that is at times repetitive from song to song but at LEAST sounds a lot more fresh and with feeling than the riffs on american slang. best songs to me: 45, too much blood, biloxi parish, desire. howl is pretty good too.
on handwritten this band got back to what they do best - the stride captured on 59 sound. i get people who prefer the gritty sound of sink or swim but as a record, 59 sound is nearly untouchably good as far as the songwriting, maturity of their idea/sound, and as an overall album. to me what prevents handwritten from being excellent is that where it champions the strengths of 59 sound -- it also fails to consistently sound like it's not just recycled parts of said record. still, overall very good and SO much better than the last record. just my take anyway.

keithybobeefy (July 27, 2012)

Perfect record. I didn't think they could live up to how good '59 Sound was, but I was wrong. So, so, so good.

http://keithradzion.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/the-gasligh t-anthem-handwritten-review/

pufferfish (July 27, 2012)

This band bores the living fuck out of me. If you're into this shit, more power to ya...but FUCK THIS BAND and FUCK THE HYPE. Apparently Bruce Springsteen tribute music is the new pop-punk with a pirate singing. Thar she blows! Fuck you.

greg0rb (July 26, 2012)

Then I say something.

conblake (July 26, 2012)

I want to sing "Handwritten" to my girlfriend: "Theres nothing like another soul thats been cut up the same." Not perfect, but a great record.

souls21 (July 26, 2012)

As with American Slang, I was skeptical about what direction they would head in since their punk influences are clearly fading. But just like last time, they prove me wrong and put out another fantastic album. Every song is great here. Fallon is one of the best songwriters we have today and it seems as if he can do no wrong. I do wish there were one or two more faster paced songs but that's minor whimpering. This is the last time I'll be skeptical for a gaslight album. Well done guys.

Alien (July 26, 2012)

Damn it is good.

slymer (July 25, 2012)

I've listened to American Slang 100's of times, and this is better. American Slang is my least favorite album by these guys, yet it's still excellent.

1.59 Sound
2.Sink or Swim
3.Senor and the Queen
5.American Slang

atomicgarden89 (July 25, 2012)

There are five tracks on this record that I think are some of gaslight anthem's best. A lot of it kind is kind of unmemorable though.

RaganYouth (July 25, 2012)

So far it's just OK. But American Slang took a while to grow on me.

korygregory (July 25, 2012)

Everyone is saying it is slow as an insult. Slow does not mean bad, people. I am really digging this album, even the "slow and boring" ones.

Blackjaw_ (July 25, 2012)

Anyone who likes this better than American Slang hasn't listened to that album more than a few times. It's waay better than this. All of the others are.

hatetheplacelovethechords (July 25, 2012)

It's a Gaslight album, all right... The faster-paced songs are awesome, the slower-paced songs tend to bore the hell out of me. This one has more energy than American Slang, though, so it ends up being pretty damn solid.

vinhoff (July 25, 2012)

Damn good record, for some reason I always dig their records more after seeing them played live which seems to be the case after last night.

Oh and the guy that said "But who is this "punkrockmusic.com" in the liner note's thank yous? TGA thinkin' they're too good for us now."

Punkrockmusic.com is a(their) merch site, you weren't being mocked, you could have you know typed it in your browser or whatever.

jacknife737 (July 25, 2012)

Goddamn, this is a good record.

publichousingV2 (July 25, 2012)

Sorry, eazy. I got a little too excited.

slymer (July 25, 2012)

Easily 4 stars. It'll probably grow on me. I love both Bob Seger and the Goo Goo Dolls, but this doesn't remind me of the Goo Goo Dolls at all.

theproblemwithfire (July 25, 2012)

recommended for fans of the goo goo dolls and the fray

millslane (July 25, 2012)

You are legally dumb if you don't like the lyrics on this album

hank2008 (July 24, 2012)

While I never expect them to top Sink or Swim, I do think this album is at least comparable to 59 Sound, if not better. Best songs are Handwritten and Keepsake, the latter has a very drive-by truckers intro. But who is this "punkrockmusic.com" in the liner note's thank yous? TGA thinkin' they're too good for us now.

Thumbs (July 24, 2012)

However, it is likely I'll appreciate this more as time goes on. When "Sink or Swim" came out, I hated it. It took me like 6 months before it clicked.
"American Slang" was the same way. About a 6 or 7 at first, but now I think it's a beautiful album.

thepopeofchili-town (July 24, 2012)

Fighting Baroness for my AOTY spot.

The only song I'm not crazy about is "Howl". Sounds like they're trying too hard to recreate Sink Or Swim. See also: "Orphans" from American Slang.

Thumbs (July 24, 2012)

Not bad, but their worst. Aside from "45", I don't find any other songs to be "great". Good, but not great.
All of their other releases are blanketed with great songs.

turdsoup (July 24, 2012)

So what hackneyed old-timey phrases/ items are left for these guys? If they get dropped from their label they can title their next album "I Coulda Been a Contender". They can sing about Indian Motorcycles and Betty Page

AmateurChemist (July 24, 2012)

I really like the songwriting, but the radio rock bridges in every song ruined it a little for me. Different production would make a big difference for me

BluthCo (July 24, 2012)

I was a little apprehensive about this album. I loved the other Gaslight albums and the band always been catchy, so I wasn't concerned much with major label executive meddling, but Fallon's talk about being influenced byTom Petty and Pearl Jam made me think the band was ditching its punk influence. Instead, we got a record that sounds like "The '59 Sound" with "bigger" production. Gaslight is 4 for 4 on full-lengths.

87wrangler (July 24, 2012)

Not their best, but still really good. Out of all the tracks "Howl" is an easy favorite, I wish they made a few more like it. It's not punk, but it doesn't have to be. I'm just glad it's not another American Slang.
1. The 59 Sound
1.5. Senor and the Queen (if it counts)
2. Handwritten
3. Sink or Swim
4. American Slang

anarchynate (July 24, 2012)

i guess i'm just done with the sound....

Apeman_on_the_moon (July 24, 2012)

This sounds like The Gaslight Anthem. Why would I want them to change their sound? I LIKE their sound. That's what makes me a fan. Derp.

llmp (July 24, 2012)

I've only listened to about half the songs on the album, but it sounds just like American Slang to me. That is to say, ok yet incredibly forgettable. They should really do a live album.

cholabeezus (July 24, 2012)

This band uses the same formula for every song. I think they're talented dudes and sound great, but fuck it'd be nice to get a surprise every once and a while.

gugl0003 (July 24, 2012)

Got so much reverb on mah singin' voice
Our tracks make Chris Moran's a-panties moist
Between da Boss anna Bouncing Souls
Lies Gaslight's old-tyme a-rock'n'roll-uh

gugl0003 (July 24, 2012)

Bob Seger > GLA

oldpunkerforever (July 24, 2012)

Brilliant, welcome back GA. Its no 59 sound but darn near close-oldpunker-

flowerfeeder (July 24, 2012)

Great record. They may have very little to do with "punk" these days, but whatever. They are an extraordinary band. Great songwriters.

hobbzoid (July 24, 2012)

it's slow. kinda boring.

mclz (July 24, 2012)

i give this 1 star...fuck tgla

unotresocho (July 24, 2012)

totally irrelevant. will forget it in 2 days. btw, "national anthem" sounds too army-ready.

nocigar (July 24, 2012)

this album is all gold, per usual for these fellas.

reissue (July 24, 2012)

Best background vocal production ever!! When I heard this was recorded at Blackbird studios, I thought we might end up with a flat, country-arena-rock production. I'm so glad it was recorded there! The songs are incredibly written and all the members have their chance to shine on the album. Alex Levine really drives the bass and that bottom end tone is crushing! Brian's vocals are full and have lots of body and movement. Alex Rosamilia's leads are so tasty and Benny Horowitz really drives it along on the drums. They mesh so well tigether as a band and still sound fresh! The songs keep you wanting more but are so satisfying when you're listening. Top notch production! Album of the year!

eazyd2 (July 24, 2012)

publichousing i know you really dig gaslight anthem but bro try restrain from commenting in a public forum. i feel fuckin embarrassed for you and as a fellow australian myself also

eazyd2 (July 24, 2012)

i guess that would explain the bleeding

schaumpton (July 24, 2012)

Good record.

Hate to break it to eazy..... but mattramone only has brothers.

Blackjaw_ (July 24, 2012)

Does not compare to their other albums, or even Elsie. It's good, but none of the songs have "hit me" at all.

cheesecakemafia (July 24, 2012)

Outstanding review.

"This is competent radio-ready pop rock"

Who the FUCK talks like this? Only Echos, only Echos.

that_band_changed_my_life (July 24, 2012)

Brian Fallon is a prophet.

mattthevegan (July 24, 2012)

Agree completely with this review. This record is a culmination of their previous work and influence but still sounds fresh. Can't get enough of it.

danperrone (July 24, 2012)

i'm not sold on this album yet. too many of the tracks are mid-paced tom petty-lite tracks that try to be too anthemic for their own good ("mulholland drive", "too much blood", "biloxi parish"). "45" and "howl" are fantastic though, and really showcase what this band does best. seriously, how can you not listen to those two tracks and not want more like that???

misterspike (July 24, 2012)

Great record, not so great record cover.

Gwarmageddon (July 24, 2012)

I had high hopes for this album, and somehow they've managed to exceed my expectations in a way I wasn't prepared for. I haven't listened to anything but this album in days now, and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. Album of the year, easily.

EchosMyron (July 24, 2012)

And there is the 9. Seriously, reviewers on this site shouldn`t even have the option of giving 9s to brand new releases. Give the album the time to age a little bit, and six months down the road, if you still think it`s that great, then boost the rating. This is competent radio-ready pop rock. It doesn`t deserve so high a score.

publichousingV2 (July 24, 2012)

Fantastic record. Their best so far.

Brian is at the top if his game vocally, and "National Anthem" is a definite highlight, but Alex R. might be the MVP here. I mean, just listen to "Mulholland Drive". Awesome. The tone is perfect too. Also, that transition from the chorus to the bridge in "Handwritten" is one of the best things they've ever composed.

Also, contrary to some of the posts below me, I think these are Brian's strongest lyrics to date outside of Elsie. "Keepsake" ("At the bottom of this river is where I put you down to lay so I can live with it. And in my heart there are these waters where I put you down to lay while I learn to live with it." "Free at last from this shadow that hangs. Surely you wonder sometimes, and I'm sure you all sympathize. Just what a man's to become, just like his daddy's done. I just want to love someone who has the same blood"), "Here Comes My Man" ("So I packed up my things and I faced all my doubts. You know, I think I will grow my hair back out. Never mind what you think, never mind what you like. I'll take it out to the streets for somebody else to admire."), "Handwritten" ("Here in the dark, I cherish the moonlight. I??m in love with the way you're in love with the night. And it travels from heart to limb to pen.") and "National Anthem" (all of it) are especially impressive, lyrically.

"Mae" should be the next single.


eazyd2 (July 24, 2012)

too much blood reminds me of fucking mattramones sister

turdsoup (July 24, 2012)

if you don't listen to this album on a transistor radio you're just a poser. Too Much Blood makes me want to crush empty coors light beer cans in my hand really hard

eazyd2 (July 24, 2012)

radio = smack
record = needle

eazyd2 (July 24, 2012)

i like listening to this album with the radio on

mattramone (July 24, 2012)

So is radio the new Maria?

Torgo (July 24, 2012)

Good album but can we somehow pass a law where Fallon is never allowed to sing the words "radio" and "record" ever again? Music is great but I was hoping for some lyrical progression :(

SloaneDaley (July 24, 2012)

Lyrics are somehow even cornier. This is just kind of an overwrought rock album with a few Goo Goo Dolls-esque parts for when they try bring the "rawk". If you are trying to be aggressive the Goo Goo Dolls shouldn't be the territory you find yourself in.

MN_DrNick (July 24, 2012)

To the guy below me, NOFX changed their sound after two records and have since been recycling the same stuff for over twenty years. They really haven't changed.

anarchynate (July 24, 2012)

This is the same record for the forth time :( even nofx changed a little bit after 4 records, other that that it is just an ok record. Like the last Springsteen was just ok...

exitenglish1208 (July 24, 2012)

hivemind FTW but this album is incredible and it's perfect. everything great about their first 3 album rolled into one.

mattramone (July 24, 2012)

I demand you post sketchyjoe's counter review. #wearethe99%

renaldo69 (July 24, 2012)

good review. liked the album!

MN_DrNick (July 24, 2012)

This might be my album of the year.

Babrook (July 24, 2012)

this band sucks remember when they were a punk band my dad likes this

bob segar/10

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