I’m currently listening to the album Painkillers by Brian Fallon, singer and songwriter from The Gaslight Anthem and The Horrible Crowes. As I chew on his new batch of songs, I look back at the band that earned him deserved attention.
Sink or Swim // 2007
Like many early albums by artists and bands, Sink or Swim is The Gaslight Anthem at their roughest. “Red in the Morning,” “We Came to Dance” and “I’da Called You Woody, Joe” shows a punk/rock energy mostly absent from later albums. Meanwhile, “Red At Night,” the last song, is a great track featuring only Fallon, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica, establishing a tradition of similar songs slotted towards the end of albums.
Conclusion // Those who dislike how much slower later songs became will feel right at home here, but it’s easy to imagine more casual fans being scared away. Still, the ingredients that made The ’59 Sound a hit are present.
Señor and the Queen // 2008
With only four songs, this EP might not seem worth grabbing, but that’s a mistake, as each track is a gem worth playing alongside their very best. “Wherefore Art Thou Elvis” features song of my favorite lyrics that Fallon ever penned. The mid-tempo “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” sends off the album with a bit of melancholy.
Conclusion // Absolutely worth the four bucks that it’s selling for on iTunes.
The ’59 Sound // 2008
When The Gaslight Anthem stops putting out albums, it’s The ’59 Sound that people will remember best. It’s their breakout album, grabbing a wider audience (and Bruce Springsteen) with energetic, well-made songs that includes the occasional reference to other artists. “Great Expectations” and the title track, the first two songs, are among the band’s best, while songs like “Film Noir” and “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” cement the quality.
Conclusion // Easily one of their best albums, and a great starting point for people interested in The Gaslight Anthem.
American Slang // 2010
American Slang reveals a band uninterested in staying still. Although still a Gaslight album, the pace is slowed in most songs as we’re given more thoughtful instrumentation. “Boxer” and “The Spirit of Jazz” approaches the same tempo as “The ’59 Sound,” but “Old Haunts” and the title track exemplifies the changes brought to this album.
Conclusion // Jumping from the last album to American Slang may be a bit of a shock with the tempo changes, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. It’s almost a mix of The ’59 Sound with the later album Get Hurt.
Handwritten // 2012
Gaslight didn’t want to change much with the first album with a new label, apparently, as Handwritten is more similar with The ’59 Sound, but only half as great as that older album. “Keepsake” and “Desire” aren’t objectively bad, but are forgettable. Fortunately, the album has songs like “45” and “Howl” to even things out.
Conclusion // Meet the weakest album from Gaslight. It’s not bad by any means, but compared to everything else that the band’s released, Handwritten is easily at the bottom, excluding The B-Sides compilation.
The B-Sides // 2014
What we have here is a compilation of covers and acoustic versions of Gaslight songs, released by former label SideOneDummy after the band moved to Mercury. Some of the acoustic takes are good, but most of the covers are forgettable with the exception of “Songs for Teenagers” by Fake Problems. The high point is easily “She Loves You,” the album’s only original song.
Conclusion // Unless you need everything by The Gaslight Anthem, just grab “She Loves You” and “Songs for Teenagers” off iTunes.
Get Hurt // 2014
Created after Brian Fallon’s divorce with his wife, Get Hurt showcases a songwriter mourning a failed, decade-long relationship. The result is a lower-tempo, darker album. The only song I feel mixed about is the album’s opener, “Stay Vicious,” but everything after is excellent. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” and “Helker Skeleton” are loud and brash, while “Dark Places” and the title track are the opposite but no less excellent. The stripped-down “Break Your Heart” is another standout.
Conclusion // Although Get Hurt is my favorite Gaslight album, I’d be apprehensive to recommend it to newcomers. The last time that Gaslight released a less mainstream album is Sink or Swim.
Elsie // 2011
Filled with mid-tempo songs thick with atmospheric production, Elsie is a departure from anything that The Gaslight Anthem released before. That’s probably why Fallon and Ian Perkins released the album as The Horrible Crowes. Fallon goes from a lower, somewhat softer tone in “I Witnessed a Crime” to higher and harsher (and difficult to replicate live) in “Go Tell Everyone.”
Conclusion // This is not just one of my favorite albums from Brian Fallon, but one of my favorite albums period. Still, it’s hard to imagine Elsie grabbing a huge audience.
Live At The Troubadour // 2013
The Horrible Crowes performing Elsie live, and as such some of the songs lack the same energy found in the studio. Fallon just can’t reach the same octave in “Black Betty & The Moon” and “Blood Loss.” The band moves onto a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” during the middle, transforming the pop song into something even I enjoy, although the same can’t be said for the forgettable cover “Never Tear Us Apart.”
Conclusion // Enjoyment may vary. Nothing here trumps what’s found in the studio album, with some notably inferior. It’s a decent live album, though. They also found a way to make me enjoy a Katy Perry song.
Another of Fallon’s side-projects, Molly and the Zombies created five Americana songs that they’ve performed live and made available to stream at one time. The band didn’t create an album and the songs can’t be officially purchased, although downloads are available. Just not from the band.
Several of the songs appeared in Fallon’s solo album, Painkillers.