The Gaslight Anthem’s debut album Sink or Swim turned a lot of heads upon its release, and the band become quickly singled out as one to watch for the future. The effortless blend of punk, soul and blues; the poetic, atmospheric lyrics which powerfully evoked nostalgic imagery of rural America offered its listeners a soft, melodic, Americana sound. Their next release, the four-track EP Señor and the Queen, cemented their reputation as punk rock’s worst-kept secret, and paved the way towards a European headlining tour as well as a spot on the 2008 Warped Tour. The anticipation surrounding this album has been immense, and when you combine this with the the recent announcement of a fall tour with Rise Against, Alkaline Trio and Thrice, and the out-of-nowhere appearance on the cover of Kerrang! magazine in the United Kingdom, it seems as though all the cards are in place for this album to be the one that strikes it rich for the Gaslight Anthem.
The Gaslight Anthem excel in not only making catchy, yet sincere music, with profound and imaginative lyrics -- the single characteristic which the Gaslight Anthem truly raise the bar at is their remarkable ability to musically construct the distinctive contexts which provides the setting to so many of the tales told through their songs. The ’59 Sound offers more poetically told tales of love, dancing, driving and girls called Maria, set against the quaint American rock’n’roll backdrop that band have been constructing throughout their previous two releases. The context is so delicately assembled so as the music instantly conjures up cinematic imagery of rural Americana, complete with cowboys, river banks, roadside diners, plaid shirts and ferris wheels.
It is a world which clearly holds a strong connection with vocalist Brian Fallon’s heart, who is obviously enchanted by the era, evidenced in "High Lonesome" as he sings "In my head there’s all these classic cars and Alamo cowboy bands," and in "Old White Lincoln" when he reveals "I always dreamed of classic cars and movie screens." Fallon’s lyrics are, again, the highlight of the album, and the most crucial attribute in the band’s ability to create the nostalgic atmosphere which surrounds every song they make. It’s a talent which shines on throughout both the morbid and joyful songs, and often reads like poetry. The lines "And they burnt up the diner where I always used to find her, licking young boys blood from her claws. And I learned about the blues from this kitten I knew, her hair was raven and heart was like a tomb" arrive within the first 40 seconds of the album, while it’s consistently littered with gems like "Come and take my hand, I’ll be the very best I can. But I still won’t be your man. I’m still these nervous feet and heart of stone. Forget this dead-mans town, I’ll take you home."
The album has continued the softer tone that was displayed on the Señor and the Queen EP, with Fallon preferring to display and develop a soulful vocal style instead of the raw punk rock vocals occasionally employed on earlier songs such as "Red in the Morning." And while this softer approach fails to produce songs with quite the same anthemic intensity of the excellent "1930" on their debut album, the album documents the progression of a band developing their own sound and becoming more confident and secure in their own music.
The ’59 Sound is an album which further develops the distinctive sound which sets the Gaslight Anthem apart from their competitors and will clearly continue to fuel their rapid ascent in the music industry. It is an album which is consistently excellent from a band which has yet to record a poor track. The album expertly combines old and new, punk and soul, while Fallon’s lyrics and Alex Rosamilia’s lead guitar take the listener on a cinematic journey through melancholy and elation, remorse and optimism. The result is an outstanding second album from a band who are still growing, improving, and taking control of the direction they take their music, and based on the quality of this album, they will have no shortage of followers.