The Gaslight Anthem’s
’59 sound is inspired by nature and nurture.
BY JASON BUGG
From his close-mouthed drawl to the Fender Telecaster he
strums with The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon is used to the comparisons to a certain
icon. “I really love Bruce Springsteen probably more than it’s healthy for a
man to, but I’m an adult and I’m weird about it, now.”
The comparisons, coupled with The Gaslight Anthem’s latest
album, The ’59 Sound (SideOneDummy
Records), have music fans and critics in a lather for the band’s raw, rootsy,
soulful and sweaty odes to young lust and rock and roll’s past. The sound may
be familiar to some, but according to Fallon it’s by design. “If there wasn’t
all the music that we listened to growing up then we wouldn’t be here,” he says.
“The good thing about music is that you can pretend to be anything you want.”
What Fallon and company want to be, and what they are, is a
combination of Springsteen’s street poet ethos and Joe Strummer’s effortless
cool. The fingerprints of both artists are all over the band’s sophomore
release, which acts as a love letter to the heyday of breathless, earnest and
lifesaving rock and roll. “We thought, ‘Let’s make an old record’ – we wanted
to put all of our love for that old music into our album,” says Fallon.
Hailing from a mere four blocks away from E Street (yes, that E Street ) in New Brunswick, New
Jersey, the quartet manages to mix equal parts of Philadelphia soul and the Big
Apple’s streetwise sensibility into a breathless package that mines fifty-plus
years of rock tradition into sonic gold. But the real impetus of The Gaslight
Anthem’s sound lies in the late-night hypothetical questions about music held
between the members of the band.
“What if The Clash was Roy Orbison’s band, what would that
sound like?” says Fallon. “We wondered what if The E Street Band didn’t have
horns or keyboards? We wanted to know what these bands would do, and the sound
people hear is the sound of what we think it would be like.”
But those familiar sounds and the hip-hop-like name checking
of other artists and songs (the band’s excellent song “High Lonesome” references
Tom Petty, The Counting Crows and Springsteen all in one four minute song)
don’t make for a derivative experience. Instead, it shows a band with a
reverence to rock ‘n’ roll and its history, from Sam Cooke to Against Me!. But
the one influence that keeps getting noticed is the one who Fallon shared a zip
code with all those years ago.
“I almost feel like all of the other influences we have got
overlooked [because of the Springsteen comparisons]. Why is nobody talking
about Roy Orbison or Van Morrison or Joe Strummer and stuff like that?” he says.
But those questions will wait to get answered another day.
For now, Fallon and the rest of The Gaslight Anthem spend their days mumbling
and fumbling through a seemingly never-ending tour, wowing audiences with
anthems of their youth, whether it be the one in front of them or the one just
behind. It sounds like the makings of a great Springsteen song, and the
similarity isn’t something that escapes Fallon – even if he bristles at the
suggestion and then resigns himself to those inevitable comparisons.
“Who am I kidding?” he says, with a laugh. “My mom raised me
on Cheerios and Born to Run – I had