The Gaslight Anthem - The B-Sides (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Gaslight Anthem

The B-Sides (2014)


On paper, a Gaslight Anthem b-sides collection is a great idea. In less than a decade of existence, the group have amassed a wealth of fantastic non-album material, from their unique takes on material like Bob Dylan's "Changing of the Guards" and Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" to blistering originals like "Blue Dahlia" and "Our Father's Sons." Sadly, none of that is included on The B-Sides, an unfortunately phoned in collection that is neither comprehensive, nor cohesive.

Before diverging into a tangent what The B-Sides could have been, let's talk about what it is. It bears mention that the material actually present on The B-Sides is phenomenal. Very little of the criticism leveled at The Gaslight Anthem over the years has anything to do with their music. All of the tracks collected here are great -- "She Loves You" stands shoulder to shoulder with "Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts" and "We Did it When We Were Young" as one of their best ballads. Their take on The Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" (actually released as an A-side single, but that's neither here nor there) manages to be faithful to the original while putting the Gaslight stamp on it as well. It's the thrown together and incomplete nature of The B-Sides that is so infuriating, not the music itself.

The sequencing of The B-Sides makes no sense either. The aforementioned "She Loves You" opens the collection, and while it is indeed a fantastic song, nothing about the slow, contemplative love song screams "record opener." Throughout the duration of the record, live tracks, studio tracks, full-band numbers and acoustic solo recordings are interspersed in a way that interrupts any logical flow or cohesion and makes it impossible for The B-sides to feel like a real "album."

It's hard to tell who is at fault for the slapdash nature of The B-Sides, the band themselves or SideOneDummy. All of the material presented was recorded during their tenure on the label. The group's new home, Mercury Records also recently released a half-hearted Gaslight Anthem product, the Live in London DVD. Shot across two nights, the final product only contains ten songs, the majority of which come from Handwritten. It's hard to gauge a consensus on what the best Gaslight Anthem album is, as they are all outstanding, but most fans of the band can agree, it's probably not Handwritten. Someone is trying to cash in.

The B-Sides is sadly, the first record bearing the name The Gaslight Anthem that is a non-essential purchase. It's unclear who the target audience for this record really is, as any fan die-hard enough to seek out the band's castoffs has heard all of these songs before, and new fans of the band would do much better to seek out one of their proper records. In a year that will see an actual new Gaslight Anthem album, as well as Brian Fallon's new side project Molly & the Zombies, The B-Sides can be easily skipped.