Same Same From Brian Fallon And Co.
There’s something strange going on here. Brian Fallon, songwriter and vocalist of New Jersey punk/heartland rock quartet The Gaslight Anthem, promised all and sundry a game changer for album number five. He predicted a record that was “completely different from anything” that Gaslight had already produced. In fact he stated that some people would think “this (style of music) has never been touched by this band before”, and perhaps even discard the album as “too weird” because it’s not what they “expected”. This is simply an inaccurate claim and somewhat disappointing. There is nothing weird or unexpected here.
What we’re left with is a fairly solid rock album that follows the same themes and structures as the band’s previous efforts but with some songs offered in a slightly different context. Take opener “Stay Vicious” for instance. The song starts with a Black Sabbath-esque meaty riff, which is, admittedly, a side step from their usual punk influenced sound. However, just a minute into the song Fallon is la la la-ing in typical Gaslight form. It’s a slight change but hardly a game changer as Fallon claimed.
Title track “Get Hurt” is a low key affair similar to Fallon’s output with side project The Horrible Crowes. The song sticks to a typical low key verse/big singalong chorus structure. The song’s tale of loss and isolation aims at an arms aloft communal gig experience. In that sense it succeeds, but as “experimentation” it is hardly a revolution. “Underneath the Ground” and “Break Your Heart” offer much the same.
Elsewhere, the terribly named “Helter Skeleton” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” offer up the usual Gaslight tropes of high octane punk inflected heartland rock. They’re bound to sate the faithful and be storming offerings live but, again, are entirely expected on a Gaslight Anthem record.
Towards the end of the album, the tender “Break Your Heart” sounds eerily similar in vocal melody to Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”. It’s in a similar vein to previous album closer “National Anthem” and “Here’s Looking At You, Kid”, the penultimate track on ’59 Sound, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of those songs.
If the band is not going to break away from their previous Bruce is a punk rocker sound, they have to bring a bag full of great tunes in a suitcase with them. They’ve done this in the past; both The ’59 Sound and Handwritten are chock full of solid, sing along working class anthems. On Get Hurt, the material simply isn’t as strong. Maybe this is because the band were concentrating on making the guitars sound chunkier and fiddling with effects in the studio with producer Mark Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Jake Bugg).
For whatever reason, what is left is an album that is neither a bold step forward nor a glorious affirmation of their earnest abilities. The band seem stuck between wanting to change and wanting to retain their strengths. Perhaps on their next offering they will have better success balancing these two desires.