I have about four long posts I’ve been meaning to write for the last week or so (chances of all four happening: slim (I’m taking odds)), but I haven’t been able to work on the blog much because for some reason my internet cuts out from about 8 am to 8 pm every day. Also, I’m lazy. But finally, musically I’ve been sort of obsessed over the last few days with an album that probably nobody who reads or writes for this blog will like.

The Gaslight Anthem somehow gets filed in with the legions of pop/punk bands that record labels can reliably market to angsty teenagers who express themselves by wearing eyeshadow and listening to bands that all have depressing names appropriated from literary classics they most likely haven’t read, like As I Lay Dying. (Sidenote: I really love how this subset of kids has this whole approximated idea of musical elitism even though all the bands they listen to are generally terrible. Also, I’m pretty sure that this musical subgenre is the only reason MySpace exists anymore). As a result of the Gaslight Anthem’s unfortunate characterization, practically nobody in the “cool” music world has heard of them.

I heard about them via Tom Breihan, whom I often let guide my musical exploration because he stands at the same intersection of southern rap and The Hold Steady that I do. Speaking of The Hold Steady, they’re a good place to start discussing the Gaslight Anthem, since they both write rollicking bar rock about disillusionment with the American Dream. Then again, while The Hold Steady are probably the coolest band that will claim to prefer Oasis to Radiohead, their music and lyrics are pretty complex, and they can claim a certain amount of artistic cachet (a lot, I would argue, but this isn’t about The Hold Steady). On the other hand, The Gaslight Anthem makes no pretensions about their influences or aims; they reference Counting Crows, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen, to whom they probably bear the most resemblance. Their lyrics are totally sincere, and they look and sound like the kind of blue-collar New Jersey guys that listen to this kind of music(which they are).

If you’re still reading at this point, I’m impressed, but I promise, these guys are great. Sure, the song structures are basic, and there are production choices dubious enough for me to notice them, but at a gut level it’s hard not to connect to this music. Thematically, and sonically, much of this is straight out of Springsteen, and, unsurprisingly, they convey a earnest authenticity that many imitators (Arcade Fire, The Killers) and even The Boss himself have often been unable to attain. The songs are about escaping on the highway, “high-top shoes and sailor tattoes,” and listening to country radio. Behind it all is a raw emotional energy that you will either love or hate. Lines like “If you never let me go, well, I will never let you down” are cheesy, but they also are great. “The ’59 Sound,” the title track of their album, is a sing-a-long anthem about a friend hearing a favorite song one last time before dying. It takes a few listens to even realize this, but then the line stating that “young boys, young girls, aren’t supposed to die on a Saturday night” totally crushes you. So yeah, it’s that kind of music. And it rocks. Listen to it with the windows rolled down or while pounding beers and it will make sense to you.

Not convinced? I’ll even let you listen:

The Gaslight Anthem – “The ’59 Sound”

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