The reason The Gaslight Anthem was able to write the best record of its career-so-far, and the frontrunner for 2012’s album of the year, is probably more a result of The Horrible Crowes than most of us really know. “I was bored,” Brian Fallon said. “After the last record for Gaslight Anthem, I was just bored. I still had the desire to write, but I didn’t want to write any more rock and roll songs. I was in this weird mood.” So he wrote Elsie with Ian Perkins, a darker, slower, brooding cauldron of an album that was nearly perfect – for what it was. Elsie somehow set off a switch, and returning with guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and drummer Benny Horowitz enabled The Gaslight Anthem to write more freely than ever.
Handwritten is the The Gaslight Anthem’s most versatile work. It combines the raw rock and roll sound of The ’59 Sound with the best soulful parts from American Slang and Elsie. Fallon’s voice is absolutely in its best shape, as the croon we heard with The Horrible Crowes strongly complements his rougher vocal parts. Most interestingly, we find a lighthearted and jovial vibe to the album at times, harkening to the Senor and The Queen EP more than anything else. But Handwritten still brings something new to the table, and what else should we expect?
The group’s influences are still abundant on the record – there’s some Bob Dylan in the harmonica on the rhythmic “Keepsake,” there’s some heavy Tom Petty on the phenomenal closer “National Anthem,” and some The Rising or Magic-era Bruce Springsteen on another highlight in “Here Comes My Man.” The latter of those three has a killer bassline and “ooh-sha-la-la” bits that would catch the attention of even the E Street Band’s backup vocalists. But we know better than to overplay the talk of influences at this point in Gaslight’s career – this is a group that has reinvented itself twice now, a group with much more than a modicum of pressure accompanying its major label debut, a group that can change faces with its versatility while remaining very much itself.