The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt (Album Review)

The Gaslight Anthem has been a band I've enjoyed for years. I enjoyed them before the buzz and the major labels. I'm not trying to claim elitism or anything; I just liked them "back then". When the band released Handwritten I really liked it, but felt a little fatigued with some of the elements of the their sound. With Get Hurt the band talked about toying with the sound a little so I was really excited to hear it and hoped it would reinvigorate the feeling I had while listening to albums like The 59 Sound and American Slang. It certainly has the odd upside down heart artwork that makes you look at it and think that doesn't look like something that would be used for The Gaslight Anthem as cover artwork.

I think every great band has those albums that are really good but may not beat previous albums. The Gaslight Anthem's Get Hurt falls in that category to me. I really dig the album. It has some really good songs. Just like with Handwritten I just get that feeling that this is really good but probably doesn't climb to the top of the list as my favorite album the band has ever written. The 59 Sound hits you so hard with a freshness and the follow-up American Slang felt familiar but improved. Handwritten kind of felt a little too much the same as American Slang. It ended up being a cool record that was good but just didn't hit me as hard. With Get Hurt being the band's major label statement I'm excited they've been able to create the album they have. It has moments of sound exploration and I really like that. I think new listeners are going to really dig this album and a new audience will no doubt feel a certain freshness to Fallon and company's songwriting abilities. This album may not sound quite as fresh to the tried and true fan who has been listening to the band for years. At least that's how it feels to me. It still has quite a few more than noteworthy moments even though it ultimately doesn't end up being my favorite album of theirs.

That's not saying this is a bad album. It's a very good album. I know I'll listen to this album a lot. Heck, it will for sure be somewhere in my favorite top 30 or so albums this year. Some of the songs just bleed emotion and Fallon just hits you hard with his songwriting ability. Those moments are fantastic representations of how great this band is. I think I prefer it to Handwritten by just a little. In the moments when the band take chances it pays off big by incorporating more alternative 90s elements. Venturing into different territory is very rewarding and as a long time listener it makes me smile to see that the band is able to take it to some new places. The problem is some of the elements that started wearing thin an album or so ago feel the same or a little too streamlined on this album, which is one of the issues that cause this album to lose a little of the flair. Fallon's ability to hang in there like an exceptional boxer make the album feel like more of a win than a loss though. These elements are going to sound fresh to you and exciting if you are a new listener. Fallon can croon his heart out with the best of them. His lyrical ability is above average and as much attention as he gets the rest of the band is a top notch group of guys as well. The drums, in particular, sound really good on the album.

I think as this is the band's major label album that they try to keep the flavor while adding a few new spices. I think as fans we should expect those trademark elements and not give the band too hard of a time for making sure they are there. After all it's what we enjoyed about the band from the start. It just seems like those elements have plateaued for The Gaslight Anthem. Songs like "Stay Vicious" and "Stray Paper" feel a lot fresher and just have such a great intensity. "Stay Vicious" shows Fallon doing some interesting things with his vocals and is what I feel like the band needs more of. It's a fantastic start to the album. "Helter Skeleton" is fantastic and screams single. I am a huge fan of the lyrics of the song. It could easily end up on a list of best The Gaslight Anthem songs. However, some of Fallon's vocal performances just lack the blowout punch they had on previous albums. He definitely has those moments that are knockouts, but it's like a boxer who started fresh in the first round entering the thirteenth and could be losing a little steam. It's important to note though that those subtle blows might not be directly intense as the knockouts, but they do have have a huge impact on the listener emotionally.  It seems like at times throughout the album the songs warranted that style of vocal performance. It seems intentional at times that Fallon just sounds so worn. The lyrics have a sadness at times that I think tugs on the heart strings of the listener. He always has; it's just more evident on Get Hurt. I don't know if I get Fallon fatigue with all The Gaslight Anthem albums plus his other side projects. He has that distinctive crooner vibe and a particular lyrical style. Hearing it too much might take away a little from the fact that's he has an impressive style and does it better than most. I try to remember how impressive an artist like Fallon is so I don't lost sight of his and the band’s talent too much after listening to them for a while and through multiple albums. Just because you get familiar with something and expect it, it doesn't mean it's bad. It just means, as a listener, you have to accept you know this band. They are always reliable like an old pair of steel toed work boots. They just may not look as new and shiny as they did the day you took them out of the box.

This is a must listen if you dig The Gaslight Anthem. No, it's not their best in my opinion. There are great songs, good songs, and some stuff that misses the mark a little. It honestly feels like a major label album in sound and vibe while jumping around a little with different vibes and styles. It shows some growth while having some restraint. It's a great introduction to a new crowd while giving old fans just enough to keep them interested. It's a pretty good album from The Gaslight Anthem and is better than most bands can ever hope to accomplish. I'd also like to note at the end of this review that the album definitely has some grower potential. If you don't like it at first give it more than a few listens. Let it sink in. Listen to the lyrics. The more I listen to this album the better and better it gets. Don't write this album off after a listen or two because on the twentieth listen you'll be glad you didn‘t. It's an interesting album, it's overall really well done, and it's a noteworthy turning point in The Gaslight Anthem's career.

No comments: