What to Do Tonight: The Gaslight Anthem

Funny -- the edge of town isn't as dark as I thought it would be
  • "Funny — the edge of town isn't as dark as I thought it would be"

You’d think after months of endless Springsteen comparisons — on blogs, in magazines, on Internet message boards — Brian Fallon would stay far, far away from the subject of Bruce. But the Gaslight Anthem frontman is more than eager to talk about one of his main music heroes. In fact, he’s the one who brings it up in conversation.

“If someone wants to tell me I’m the next Bruce Springsteen, that’s pretty awesome,” he says. “I’ll roll with that the rest of my career. I’d like to be the next Bruce Springsteen.”

The New Jersey natives (of course they’re from New Jersey) released their debut album, Sink of Swim, in 2007. But it wasn’t until the following year’s The ’59 Sound that people started paying attention. With this year’s American Slang, one of 2010’s best albums, even more people are listening. And they’re noticing similarities between the Boss’ classic-rock narratives and Fallon’s own epic stories — both of which are delivered in super-sized chunks of anthemic glory.

It’s not that the Gaslight Anthem sound exactly like the E Street Band or even compare in size (there are four guys in the Gaslight Anthem, and none of them plays saxophone or piano onstage — though American Slang features a little of both). Springsteen’s band has its roots in ’60s R&B; the Gaslight Anthem’s stem from ’70s punk. And they sure don’t look like the E Street Band (for one thing, Fallon is covered in tattoos). But there’s a big, stadium-ready drive to the Gaslight Anthem’s music that’s ready to share the road with Wendy, Mary, and the rest of Springsteen’s tramps.

Plus, there are the direct lyrical references: “broken heroes,” “wash these sins,” “no surrender, and “Bobby Jean” all show up on The ’59 Sound. One of the record’s highlights, “High Lonesome,” even lifts a whole line — “At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet” — from “I’m on Fire.” There’s more of the same on American Slang.

“We all grew up listening to Bruce — he was the biggest of the big,” says Fallon, who appears onstage with Springsteen in the Boss’ recent London Calling: Live in Hyde Park DVD during “No Surrender.” “In the ’70s, there were these big, long, drawn-out concept records — everything was just spacey and weird. Bruce streamlined it. He’s the guy who didn’t screw it up.”

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