It would be stupid for me to believe that I am going to tell you something you haven’t already read about this album, or figured on your own if you have listened to it (my first borrowed line from Nick Hornsby’s description of Handwritten). The Gaslight Anthem’s latest work has been out for almost a month now, and I have spent a lot of time driving recently which usually equates to a lot of chance to enjoy some good music along the way. While Handwritten wasn’t the only record to grace my cd player while driving, it was thoroughly played. Some songs played more than others as my wife is my opposite number when it comes to listening to music. I am an album listener and I listen from beginning to end, her on the other hand will play the same song over and over again. She does that with a few songs from the album, most notably “45”, “Keepsake”, and “You Got Lucky.” She also has her own dance for the latter song, and she has listened to it so many times that her copy of the cd skips on this song.
Anyway, we were travelling through Manitoba and during one of our many listens to “Keepsake” she pointed out to me that the song reminded her of me. We listened to it over and over again, and I could not figure it out (and she wouldn’t stop playing it until I guessed). So finally I asked “is he singing about his (a) dad?” to which she replied “yeah, I figured that out like the first time I heard it.”
So while she likes to hear her favourites over and over again, I like to break up the monotony of driving the Trans-Canada highway by playing music trivia, and more specifically, “Who was the original singer for this song?” I have to point out the she got “Which deceased 90’s rock star was the original artist for this song?” (Kurt Cobain and Nirvana on “Sliver”) and “Who was the original singer to this” (Tom Petty on “You Got Lucky”) both wrong. But she now claims that when she does her dance to “You Got Lucky” that if I “didn’t want me to dance like this you shouldn’t have introduced me to the song.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I am glad I did, and I am glad that she enjoys the group (almost) as much as I do. It is hard to describe, but when listening to a Gaslight Anthem song there is an energy that isn’t present in most music. I remember being younger and listening to Born in the U.S.A on my grandmother’s 8 track player, or the Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker on my step-dad’s cassette in the car and just knowing that the music was something special. I remember telling my wife when American Slang came out that one day our boy (not long after he was born) will look back and tell people about how his parents used to listen to The Gaslight Anthem on long trips, she agreed.
Not long after this, I remember Lady Gaga being on an awards show and dressing up in meat (notice how I don’t really remember what show) and somebody at work stating how she is such a fashion icon. I tried to gently explain that Lady Gaga needs that type of gimmick because her music isn’t very good, but guys like Brian Fallon and the like just exude cool through their music and don’t need that type of stuff. I don’t think she understood me. As it turns out, Nick Hornsby would write something eerily similar on the album write up as I said almost two years prior when he wrote ” even clothes made out of meat won’t do you much good if your music is 1980’s dance-pop.” So while I may not have anything to say about Handwritten that hasn’t already been said I will take some solace in knowing that the group themselves are not trying to recreate the wheel when they record an album, but are just carrying on the tradition of rock ‘n’roll, in their own voice and doing with as much conviction and authenticity as they can muster (my third Nick Hornsby reference).