The Gaslight Anthem – “The B-Sides”
The Gaslight Anthem are one of those bands who have managed to achieve a kind of cult status here in the UK. Many bands of their ilk, have struggled to generate an interest here, where we prefer our own kitchen sink tales to the blue collar American dream. The Gaslight Anthem have rapidly developed a fan base who see them as the “Springsteen” figure for a new generation. This B sides album, released by the excellent Side One Dummy Label, allows us to hear some acoustic favourites, cover versions and rarer tracks.
The album begins with “She Loves You” which is a track which originally featured as a bonus track on The American Slang album. It has all the hall marks of a Gaslight Anthem song, with a relatively straight forward nature but poignant ‘street’ lyrics.
A number of the tracks on the album are acoustic versions of some of their fan’s favourite songs. The first one up is “The ’59 Sound”, which is appropriate as it is probably the song which introduced many fans to the band. This alone will mean it has a special place in their fan’s hearts. It is a mark of a great song that it still sounds brilliant when stripped down to a simple acoustic song. It is certainly true of this track and when you hear the creaks and croaks in Brian Fallon’s voice it just adds more feeling. Other acoustic songs include “Queen Of Lower Chelsea” and “Great Expectations”. The first of these sees the sparser sound allowing you to more easily immerse yourself in the words of the song, where they are always a key feature of the bands appeal. On “Great Expectations” they transfer a raucous punk rock song into a heart aching love song.
It is this ability to change the feel of the songs which makes this album so good. The best example is probably “American Slang”, where the original track probably saw the band’s sound at it’s most produced. The track here is, therefore, the one which shows the biggest leap from the tone of it’s album counter part. Then on “Boxer”, it sounds really different due to the added influence of a kind of reggae beat or calypso feel. It also gives a neat example of the band showing a bit of a lighter side.
There is only one live song on the album, which would normally be a pity, were it not for the fact that they have recently released a full live CD and DVD. The one track here, is a cover of the Pearl Jam song “State of Love & Trust”. It must be said that for a band who are exceptional live, it isn’t one of the best performances that they have delivered. However, what it does demonstrate is that the band are honest and real and, thankfully, have not reduced themselves to numerous overdubs to correct the raw sound.
There are a number of cover versions on here which really show the influences on the band. With the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” it is just really nice to hear the band just playing something for fun. It is good to see a more relaxed approach compared to their normal level of intensity. They also include the less well known “Once Upon A Time”. This gives the band the chance to show a more soulful side. In fact with the female backing vocals adding an almost Gospel feel, you could see Gaslight Anthem going down the same kind of sound as the most recent Lucero album. The best cover song on the album, however, is of “Songs For Teenagers” by ex label mates Fake Problems. It is really a great pop rock song and hopefully it will get all the Gaslight Anthem fans going out and discovering the brilliant album by Fake Problems that it comes from.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that this is a great album, where a band of this stature would always produce good b sides. Given the nature of their fan’s obsession for the band, I expect that many will already have the tracks on this album. However, for anyone who has yet to hear them, it provides a welcome addition to the band’s catalogue. Also, no one could criticise Side One Dummy from further enjoying some reward, given the way they promoted and supported the band in the early days.It is also a reminder that the reason for the band’s success is their song writing ability and their genuine passion for the music they produce.