Artist: The Gaslight Anthem
Album: Sink or Swim
Comments: Something must be in the water in New Jersey. Like the DC area before it, New Jersey has become a breeding ground for the second wave of poppy, emotional hardcore acts. From being the home state of bands like the Early November and Senses Fail, to hosting the yearly emo-fest that is the Bamboozle Festival, NJ seems to be the new home of double guitars, shouting, and heartbreak. Oh, and it’s the home of The Gaslight Anthem.
While it does share some similarities in theme and instrumentation with the bands mentioned above, Sink or Swim is a much more mature and rewarding look at love, life, and relationships that can usually be found under the “emo” umbrella.
Two things set this release apart from the pack, and keep it from being just another emo release. The first, and most obvious, is where the Gaslight Anthem gets their influences. Sure, it’s got that post hardcore / emo sound that bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and the Get Up Kids perfected, but more than anything else TGA takes their notes from NJ’s most famous musical export, Bruce Springsteen. Singer / guitarist Brian Fallon’s lyrics are Springsteenian in his delivery and ability to mix working class escapism with lovesick romantics. He maintains a gruff delivery that is jarring at times, but still miles away from the usual nasal whine that plagues the genre. Simply put, TGA are able to take ancient romantic sentiments and tell them from the perspective of a grown man who has seen the world and forgiven it of its shortcomings, not as an adolescent dealing with his first encounters with romance.
The second, and perhaps less obvious thing, that sets Sink or Swim apart from the crowd is how the band plays the music. Pop chords and catchy riffs are all over this record, and like I said in the opening paragraph, it does have that double guitar harmony that permeates the modern emo genre. More than that, however, it’s the classic rock feel that plays out on the record. These are not 18 year olds with faux-hawks and devil spikes. These are people with diverse tastes, and who know more than one or two tricks on the guitar. By taking classic rock sensibility and merging it with modern youthful delivery, it sounds both fresh and instantly welcoming.
While not a perfect album, Sink or Swim is able to take NJ’s two biggest musical themes; youthful emotion and working class stadium rock, and turn them both on their ear for a release that is both exciting and catchy. It’s a good trick, but I am looking forward to seeing if they can continue to develop their sound. But for now, the throaty delivery, furious instrumentation, and mature poetry of the Gaslight Anthem not only floats, but swims.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Key Tracks: We Came to Dance, Wooderson, I’da Called you Woody Joe, The Navesink Banks
Worth The Money: Yeah, I recommend it.