The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten
Bottom Line: Another great album by The Gaslight Anthem that sounds like a blend of everything they've done before.


Disclaimer: This review will not mention Bruch Springsteen.

Since the release of their debut Sink or Swim in 2007, The Gaslight Anthem have attracted a large and extremely devoted following. They seem to be fairly accessible, and have managed to attract a fairly diverse range of fans despite generally being described as "punk." This accessibility does not come at the expense of blandness or pop hooks either, as they are anything but generic and have a fairly unique sound that has changed from album to album. Debut Sink or Swim had a somewhat raw sound, The '59 Sound was eclectic and "retro," and American Slang featured dynamic guitar parts and the occasional Motown influence.

Fourth release Handwritten seems to combine the best features of all previous releases. It's raw, eclectic, and features even more guitar solos. It has vocalist Brian Fallon's trademark emotive lyrics that frequently evoke nostalgia of driving around and listening to the radio in what I can only imagine to be an ideal '50s setting abound with greasers. He solidifies the band's American sound with punk, blues, and straight up rock & roll influences.

Handwritten opens with single "45," an excellent track that has it all: great drumming, a sweeping lead guitar part, and Fallon shouting sincere lyrics such as "Have you seen my heart? Have you seen how it bleeds?" and including references to cars and records. The energy stays up for the title track, which sounds like it could have been on American Slang if it were less raw. "Mulholland Drive" features a really impressive guitar solo and more heartache ("I'd just die if you ever took your love away"). "Keepsake" and "Too Much Blood" both have a strong blues influences, and "Howl" is both straightforward yet catchy. The energy stays up for the next few tracks, until bringing it down a bit for penultimate track "Mae" and closer "National Anthem," which continues the trend of including a slower song at the end (like "Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts" and "Here's Looking At You Kid" from previous releases).

While Handwritten isn't a revolutionary departure from The Gaslight Anthem's signature sound, it is a solid successor and sticks to something that really works for the band. It's not overly ambitious, but it's not a carbon copy of previous albums either. It hasn't replaced The '59 Sound as my favorite release by the band, but it definitely does not disappoint Gaslight Anthem fans, except maybe for those that feel compelled to make several classic rock comparisons per album. For those rooted firmly in the present, and those with an optimistic eye on the future, Handwritten gives much to celebrate, and just enough to get nostalgic about.

Grade: A
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