NPR logo First Listen: The Gaslight Anthem, 'American Slang'

First Listen: The Gaslight Anthem, 'American Slang'

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

American Slang centers around the fleeting nature of youth. Ashley Maile hide caption

toggle caption
Ashley Maile

American Slang centers around the fleeting nature of youth.

Ashley Maile

The true test of a Gaslight Anthem album can't — or at least shouldn't — take place while the listener is staring at a computer screen. The New Jersey-based band makes music for car stereos, plain and simple; its timeless, barreling rock 'n' roll anthems are all about conflating simple tropes (Saturday night, the open road) with disarmingly wise observations on life, death and youth. It's hardly a surprise that Bruce Springsteen has joined The Gaslight Anthem on stage, just as it's hardly a surprise that footage of the collaboration depicts singer Brian Fallon looking as if his heart is about to explode in a trillion joyful pieces.

Beneath the big, galloping fun of American Slang lies a unifying theme about the fleeting nature of youth. "Everybody used to call you Lucky when you were young," Fallon sings in the magnificent "Stay Lucky," taking all of 10 words to sum up a lifetime of compromise and faded hope. American Slang keeps coming back to lost vitality; the album might as well have been titled Hey, Remember When You Were Young? Yeah, That Was a While Ago. As such, it's a perfect companion for those who might be on the verge of, say, their 20th high-school reunion this summer. If you are, it'll give you a perfect excuse to rent a muscle car for the occasion, blast these bold anthems of ambivalence in the parking lot, and revel in what little youth you've got left.

American Slang will stream here in its entirety until its release on June 15. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.