When a songwriter reflects the raw and brittle shade to his honesty, it becomes difficult to resist what he has to say and like so many composers before him, Brian Fallon’s heart has its scars and band-aids and the way it bleeds is truly magnetic. Handwritten isn’t as nostalgic as The Gaslight Anthem’s earlier discog and that’s because through a more immediate supply of fleshed out rock anthems, the New Jersey collective put a focus on tearing out emotions from memories and putting them to words, chords and rhythms. With every biting hook, there’s a ode to ripping heartache (“45”) and when songs like “Mulholland Drive” and “Keepsake” ring with the deep, rich feelings they embody, lines like “I just want to love someone who has the same blood” form stories from their wreck.
In the midst of it all, it’s clear the ingenuity to The Gaslight Anthem’s feral attempt to write real songs is stripped from blue-collar rock and roll. In just two-minutes, “Howl” races like a southern punk score to a Nashville teen skipping stones at a window in a downpour whilst singing to a former flame he left for unwarrented reasons. It’s not as direct as “Here Comes My Man”, a gripping alt ballad that Fallon can call his own “Better Man”, but it compliments the integrity of Handwritten’s dire moments where drums provide a heartbeat to a melody and guitars and bass swallow each other to let simple riffs swell with the woozy burn of a lighter during a cold walk home. Being picturesque requires expansion and instead, the four-piece press play on a jukebox full of romanticized edge while Fallon wails until his lungs collapse from butchering reminders that violently ricochet from his heart to your distress.
Download: “45”, “Mae”, “Mulholland Drive”
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