“We’re not into just kinda being like a little footnote,” says The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon. “We want to be The Ones, y’know?” With American Slang, The Gaslight Anthem makes an extraordinary leap forward towards that very goal. The New Jersey-based band’s third long player reveals a remarkably powerful rock ‘n’ roll outfit honed by two years of nearly non-stop touring. Singer/guitarist Fallon’s passionate lyrical approach has grown more personal and introspective, his raw throated vocals stronger and more resonant against the band’s pulse-pounding dynamic force. Songs like “Bring It On,” “Orphans” and the rousing title track bristle and burn with the spirit of soul, the energy of punk, and the artistic ambition of any hall of famer you’d care to name. American Slang is the battle cry of a great band finding its own voice and using it to shout to the rooftops and beyond.
The Gaslight Anthem exploded out of the New Brunswick punk underground with 2007’s energetic debut, Sink or Swim. The Senor and the Queen EP followed in early 2008, its ambition foreshadowing the band’s stunning SideOneDummy Records debut, The '59 Sound. With its melding of classic rock, soul and punk power, the album proved an immediate critical and popular sensation, with The New York Times praising the “rich, lustrous songwriting” and “taut punk arrangements,” noting that Fallon’s “casually observed storytelling, overflowing with detail, seethes with a cool desperation reminiscent of Mr. Springsteen in the late ’70s.”
Having made their bones playing 200 nights a year in packed clubs across the US, Europe, and Australia, The Gaslight Anthem hit the road hard in 2008 and never looked back. The band headlined sold out shows around the planet and shared stages with an array of like-minded artists, including Social Distortion, Rise Against, Against Me!, and the aforementioned Mr. Springsteen, who joined the band onstage for stunning performances of “The ’59 Sound” at 2009’s Glastonbury Festival and Hard Rock Calling in London’s Hyde Park. What’s more, Fallon returned the favor, accompanying the E Street Band for rousing renditions of the Springsteen classic, “No Surrender.”
The Gaslight Anthem returned home in November 2009 and took a well-earned month off before getting back to work. The band had since left its native New Brunswick, with Rosamilia heading to Hoboken, drummer Ben Horowitz to Jersey City, and bassist Alex Levine to Budd Lake, NJ, with Fallon emigrating from the Garden State to not-so-far-away Brooklyn. Leaving home was essential for Fallon, who had to create space between his old existence and his new before putting pen to paper.
Sonic inspiration came in the unlikely guise of classic Brit blues-rock, with Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, and Derek & The Dominos serving as key muses for their musical muscle and eclectic directness. Fallon accepted sage wisdom from Derek himself via the guitar god’s autobiography. Becoming better overall players gave the band the confidence to experiment in ways they never would’ve previously attempted. American Slang is marked by such elaborate exploration, including the expansive and rhythmic “The Queen of Lower Chelsea,” described by Rosamilia as “our raga ‘Straight To Hell.’”
American Slang turns up the dial on the band’s love of soul and classic rock, while still flying the flag of its hardcore roots. Songs such as “Bring It On” and “Orphans” provide the exhilarating answer to Fallon’s musical question, what if the Rolling Stones played with breakneck energy of Stiff Little Fingers? A number of the band’s many friends make cameo appearances on American Slang, including Jesse Malin, Brian Kienlen and Pete Steinkopf from Bouncing Souls, Vision’s Dave Franklin, and Tommy Gunn of Communication Redlight. Always a band with an innate sense of community, the album pays homage to their Jersey punk roots with the New Wave soul-shaker “The Diamond Church Street Choir” named in tribute to the band’s old pal Andy Diamond, who booked their very first gigs at New Brunswick’s famed Court Tavern.
With its astonishing range and undeniable urgency, American Slang is The Gaslight Anthem laying it all on the line, giving it all they had to give. Achieving their dreams only served to fuel The Gaslight Anthem’s already limitless ambition, driving the band to test their mettle as artists and as men.