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The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten
Mercury/Island Def Jam
Storied music scenes have a way of suffocating their young, but the lads in The Gaslight Anthem, after years of playing in the shadow of Springsteen’s “Jersey Shore sound,” have gradually learned to breathe on their own. And this is what makes their major label debut such a mystery; they’ve shed the tuneful blue-collar dashboard rock of American Slang in favor of generic quasi-emo à la Blink-182 or Weezer. It might have worked if the band had approached the change with more irony, but producer Brendan O’Brien exerts such a heavy hand, with sledgehammer snares and an overall mix built for “loudness,” that lead singer Brian Fallon’s slightest attempt at naked honesty (the high point of “Biloxi Parish,” for one) gets lost in an avalanche of compression. “Too Much Blood” might well be a future Gaslight classic, and “National Anthem” is a heartfelt acoustic ballad with heft, but the band sounds so boxed-in—and plays so many songs in the same key (B-flat, for anyone who cares)—that much of Handwritten just fades on the page.
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