This article originally ran in 2014 and was republished in 2022.
When the needle drops on The Gaslight Anthem’s sophomore record, The ‘59 Sound, it’s not actually a needle. The soft hisses and crackles belong to a prerecorded sound effect, the inclusion of which would be entirely unnecessary if the band trusted you to listen on glorious, 180-gram vinyl. But the fact is that it was 2008, you probably bought this on CD or mp3, and the band’s only way to be authentic was to be a little contrived.
Fast-forward six years and three records, and the same paradox applied right up to their final effort, 2014’s Get Hurt. On that LP as well as 2010’s American Slang and 2012’s Handwritten, frontman Brian Fallon and his bandmates held fast to their fantasies about late-night diners and girls named Mary or Maria, creating a self-contained mythology of an America more real than the one we’ve got. As the tropes became more common, the band even risked unintentional comedy, with some critics in awe of how many times Fallon could drop the word “radio” on a single album.
But all of that is part and parcel of what made The Gaslight Anthem great. They wore their influences on their sleeves, yet they refused to hide behind those influences. They name-dropped Charles Dickens, English author, and Andy Diamond, New Jersey punk promoter, and didn’t skip a beat in the interim.
Ahead of Fallon’s birthday tomorrow (January 28th), we’re revisiting their catalog and detailing the best songs of their career. Scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
— Collin Brennan