I will analyse an album from 2008, 1998, 1988, 1978 and 1968 and try to explain why you should give each a shot.
Let’s start with the newest record of the bunch, The Gaslight Anthem’s 2008 masterpiece The ‘59 Sound.
The Gaslight Anthem is a New Jersey band mixing classic rock tropes with a punk edge. The band is most commonly compared with Bruce Springsteen, who is an obvious inspiration. He’s also a fan, and has shared the stage with The Gaslight Anthem several times.
The ‘59 Sound opens with the sound of a needle hitting a vinyl record before the band kicks in with urgency. In no time lead singer Brian Fallon, drenched in reverb, is bellowing “I saw tail lights last night in a dream about my first wife; everybody leaves and I’d expect as much from you.”
The album is a blast to sing along with and features cathartic performances throughout.
But my favourite aspect is Fallon’s lyrics, which deal in rock tropes focused on nostalgia and romance – sometimes new love but mostly love lost.
Fallon doesn’t just emulate his music heroes, he pulls lines directly from their songs. He incorporates so many nods to, and lyrics from, other artists (and films) the album becomes a game of catch the reference.
On Old White Lincoln he borrows from Bob Dylan:
“I lit a cigarette on a parking meter, the corner boys told her how I was dying to meet her.”
And Tom Waits:
“Bring a dollar with you baby, in the cold cold ground.”
On the next track, High Lonesome, he takes lines from Counting Crows:
“Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand.”
And Tom Petty:
“There were southern accents, on the radio.”
And one of my favourite examples on the whole album, from Bruce Springsteen:
“At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet, it’s a pretty good song baby you know the rest.”
Whilst a treasure trove of references is a music nerd’s dream, I’m certain others can find more simple pleasures in the album’s driving rhythms and soulful, passionate delivery.
The ‘59 Sound calls back to a bygone era when rock heroes deserved the worship they received.
It also proves some special modern bands deserve equal adoration