If there was ever a band that could be accurately described by their name it’s New Jersey’s the Gaslight Anthem. Worshiping equally at the altars of Bruce Springsteen and Lifetime, the band’s sophomore effort, The ‘59 Sound, is a collection of fist-pumping songs about being young, getting out and finding love in the small towns that exist by the side of the highway. Like the Hold Steady and the Constantines, the Gaslight Anthem makes music that utilizes the big-guitar melodies and sing-along choruses of classic rock, but rather than trying to sound like Fugazi (like the Constantines) or Thin Lizzy (like the Hold Steady), Gaslight Anthem are trying to bridge the gap between Born to Run and Start Today, and it can only sound better with a room full of kids singing along.
On the album opener “Great Expectations,” a confident rocker about abandonment and lost love, vocalist Brian Fallon laments his relationship with his first wife and informs a new love that “everybody leaves, so why wouldn’t you” in a half-growl/half-croon that’s as Springsteenian as a baseball cap tucked into the back pocket of a pair of blue jeans. Since every song is a stage-ready anthem about youth and escape—the title track is a sobering song about death (“Did you hear your favorite song one last time?”)—there’s little variation in sound and theme throughout. Luckily, the band can write some catchy hooks.
What’s a little harder to dismiss is how much the band bites from the Boss. “Miles Davis & the Cool,” for example, plays like a note-for-note assemblage from Springsteen’s catalog (listen for the “Born to Run” breakdown and the “Rosalita” handclaps and call-and-response). Inspiration is one thing, but the Gaslight Anthem occasionally border on outright theft. But while they might not be the most original band on the block, the Gaslight Anthem’s interpretation of their influences makes for one of the more rewarding punk albums of the year.