By David Werther.
The Gaslight Anthem, The '59 Sound (SideOneDummy Records, 2008)
Bono sees the 45 rpm record as an art form. The Gaslight Anthem has mastered that form. Every song on The '59 Sound is a single. Each one pulls you in, offers you a moment of catharsis, and leaves you hanging on to some lyrics. Like most great bands, it defies any easy categorization. The band takes its name from "The Gaslight," a club where the young Bob Dylan and his folkie friends played. In their lyrics they point to Miles Davis ("Miles bring in the cool"), Bob Seger ("it's funny how the night moves . . . singing a song from 1962"), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ("there were southern accents on the radio as I drove home"), Gary U.S. Bonds ("Quarter to Three"), Wilson Pickett ("Midnight Hour"), Marvin Gaye ("can I get a witness") and Sam Cooke ("twisting the night away"). Singer Brian Fallon has summed up the band's sound as "blue collar soul."* That seems fair enough, provided the working class guy happens to be a punk rocker, because punk energy is central to the band's sound. Think Joe Strummer meets Bruce Springsteen.
The songs on the The '59 Sound are music for the beaten but unbowed. There is plenty of sadness and loss but no surrender. When a lifetime of "forging Marley's chains" is over, there remains the hope that we'll hear "something quiet and minor and peaceful and slow as we float out . . . into the Everlasting Arms" (title track).