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The Gaslight Anthem: Revisiting Sounds Of '59
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The Gaslight Anthem: Revisiting Sounds Of '59


The Gaslight Anthem is a rock band from New Jersey that writes detailed songs - songs that tell stories. Critics have compared The Gaslight Anthem's music to early recordings by a fellow New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.

Our critic, Tom Moon, says The Gaslight Anthem's new album, "The '59 Sound" is one of this year's great surprises.

(Soundbite of song, "Great Expectations")

Mr. BRIAN FALLON (Vocalist, The Gaslight Anthem): (Singing) Mary, this station is playing every sad song. I remember like we were alive.

TOM MOON: That's the opening line from "Great Expectations," track one on a new effort from The Gaslight Anthem. 28-year-old singer and songwriter Brian Fallon grew up five blocks from E Street, and says that until this album, he did everything possible to avoid sounding too much like Bruce Springsteen.

(Soundbite of song, "Great Expectations")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) And I learned about the blues from this kitten I knew. Her hair was rabid and her heart was like a tomb. My heart's like a wound.

MOON: Eventually, Fallon realized that he couldn't shake The Boss, and he stopped trying. He found himself writing sprawling, detail-rich songs that romanticize the end of adolescence. That's an overly familiar and thoroughly exhausted Springsteen subject. But when The Gaslight Anthem goes there, it somehow resonates differently.

(Soundbite of song, "Great Expectations")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) Mary, I worried and stalled every night of my life. Better safe than making the party. And I never had a good time. I sat by my bedside, with papers and poetry about Astella. Great expectations, we had the greatest expectations. And I saw daylights last night and a dream about my first wife. Everybody leaves and I'd expect as much from you.

MOON: "The '59 Sound" was recorded in two weeks. Much of it captures the moment when the renegade in his late teen years bumps into the responsibilities of the adult world for the first time. It's sober stuff, and yet it doesn't feel that way. The Gaslight Anthem plays with the ripping punk-rock intensity associated with Warped Tour bands.

Here's the title track.

(Soundbite of song, "The '59 Sound")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) Well, I wonder which song they're gonna play when we go. I hope it's something quiet and minor and peaceful and slow. When we float out into the ether, into the Everlasting Arms, I hope we don't hear Marley's chains we forged in life, because the chains I been hearing now for most of my life. The chains I been hearing now for most of my life. Did you hear the '59 Sound coming through on grandmama's radio? Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?

MOON: Usually, when a young rock songwriter invokes an idol, be it Springsteen or Bob Dylan or Otis Redding, or even Charles Dickens, who turns up several times here, what follows is something that'll make you cringe - a self-conscious grab at reflected credibility. That's not the case with The Gaslight Anthem.

(Soundbite of song, "Miles Davis and the Cool")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) Look Miles Davis, I've been swayed by the cool. There's just something about the summertime. There's just something about the moon.

MOON: Songwriter Brian Fallon might be dropping names, but he's not putting on airs. In the great rock 'n' roll tradition, he uses those big, $100 references to tell his own stories.

(Soundbite of song, "Miles Davis and the Cool")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) Miles, bring in the cool.

BLOCK: The new album from The Gaslight Anthem is called "The '59 Sound." Our reviewer, Tom Moon, is the author of the book "1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die."

(Soundbite of song, "Miles Davis and the Cool")

Mr. FALLON: (Singing) Now honey, put on your red dress, your diamond soul shoes. Climb on down from that window. Climb on out of your room. Because I've never had a good thing and I've always had the blues.

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