Old Haunts: Brian Fallon and The Gaslight Anthem

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Brian Fallon is one of my favorite musicians, whether playing the frontman for The Gaslight Anthem or going it solo. He caught my attention with The 59′ Sound, and ever since his music has painted my twenties, so how about we look the albums he’s made.

The Gaslight Anthem

Sink or Swim // 2007

The first album by The Gaslight Anthem features the band at their roughest, and I mean that as a compliment. Songs like “We Came to Dance” and “I’da Called You Woody, Joe” features a somewhat punk/rock energy largely absent from future albums. Meanwhile, “Red at Night” concludes Sink or Swim with Fallon joined by an acoustic guitar and harmonica, starting a tradition of similarly slower paced songs slotted towards the end of albums.

Recommended? // I’m aware there’s people who thought that the album American Slang wasn’t as energetic. They likely had this album in mind when they made that remark. This is a great collection of songs, but probably won’t appeal to everyone.

Señor and the Queen // 2008

Don’t underestimate this four-song EP; each of these songs are gems. “Wherefore Art Thou Elvis” is lyrically one of my favorite songs by Brian Fallon, and the mid-tempo “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” is a wonderfully melancholy way to conclude the EP. There isn’t much here, but this is quality over quantity.

Recommended? // Worth the four bucks that it’s selling for on iTunes.

The ’59 Sound // 2008

The album that fans will recall the most fondly once The Gaslight Anthem officially calls it quits (they’re currently on hiatus). The ’59 Sound is their breakout album that earned them a larger audience (and the attention of Bruce Springsteen) with energetic, excellent songs. The title track and “Great Expectations” are among the band’s best, while tracks like “Film Noir” and “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” are certainly no slouches. A wonderful album overall.

Recommended? // One of their best albums, and highly recommended to newcomers. There’s nothing else to say.

American Slang // 2010

I’ve always viewed American Slang as The Gaslight Anthem growing and exploring a sound that allows for more thoughtful instrumentation, which happens to involve a lower pace. That said, they haven’t abandoned the energy that made previous albums fun to listen to, as exemplified with “Boxer” and “The Spirit of Jazz”, but the title track and “Old Haunts” comes across as more methodical. Brian Fallon further embraced this with the album Get Hurt and his side-project The Horrible Crowes.

Recommended? // Although the overall tempo is slower than what’s found in The 59′ Sound, American Slang is a worthy successor and a natural progression to the album Get Hurt and band The Horrible Crowes. Absolutely recommended.

Handwritten // 2012

If American Slang felt a tad too different from The ’59 Sound, then Handwritten sounds like the bridge between the two albums. Had this released between them, maybe the reception for American Slang would’ve been more positive than I recall seeing. Anyway, the problem is that Handwritten doesn’t stand toe-to-toe with the previous albums. It’s still good thanks in no small part to songs like “45” and “Howl”, but not great.

Recommended? // The weakest album by The Gaslight Anthem. Although I wouldn’t say it’s bad, Handwritten pales in comparison to every album in this article, The B-Sides compilation excluded. Get it, but only after the rest of The Gaslight Anthem’s material.

The B-Sides // 2014

Here is a compilation of covers and acoustic versions of Gaslight Anthem songs, released by their former label SideOneDummy after the group moved to Mercury. The acoustic tracks are decent, but most of the covers are forgettable. The main exception is “Songs for Teenagers” by Fake Problems, which rivals the original. The best song is easily the album’s only original song, “She Loves You”.

Recommended? // Not really. The acoustic tracks are nice, but hardly necessary. Buy “She Loves You” and “Songs for Teenagers” from iTunes.

Get Hurt // 2014

The result of Brian Fallon’s divorce from his wife, Get Hurt showcases a talented songwriter mourning a failed, decade-long relationship. The only song that I have mixed feelings about is the opening track “Stay Vicious” but everything after is excellent. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” and “Helter Skeleton” are loud and brash, not unlike the band’s earlier material, while “Dark Places” and the title track are the opposite but no less excellent. The stripped-down “Break Your Heart” is another standout. There’s plenty of pain through this lower-tempo, darker album, and it’s possibly for that reason that I believe Get Hurt is so outstanding.

Recommended? // My favorite Gaslight Anthem album. Get Hurt is a less mainstream album than previous material, but that’s hardly a bad thing. It might not appeal as much to newcomers as The 59′ Sound or Handwritten, but I’ll happily recommend it to anyone who’ll listen.

The Horrible Crowes

Elsie // 2011

It could be argued that this is the direction that The Gaslight Anthem was heading towards with American Slang. Filled with mid-tempo songs thick with atmospheric production, Elsie is a departure from anything that Brian Fallon released before, which might explain why he and Ian Perkins released the album as The Horrible Crowes. Of note is how Fallon goes from a lower, somewhat softer tone in, for instance, “I Witnessed a Crime” to higher and harsher (and difficult to replicate live) in “Go Tell Everyone”.

Recommended? // Much of what I wrote for Get Hurt applies to Elsie. It won’t capture a huge audience, but I absolutely love this. One of my favorite albums ever.

Live At The Troubadour // 2013

A live album where the entirety of Elsie is played live, and this naturally means that the songs contain a different spirit than their studio counterparts. For instance, Brian Fallon doesn’t reach the same high octave in “Black Betty & the Moon” and “Blood Loss”. The band also played two covers from Katy Perry and INXS. The latter cover does nothing for me, but they managed to transform this pop song into something that I enjoy far more. It’s worth mentioning that the album contains both the CD and a DVD with the concert footage.

Recommended? // I’ve learned that not everyone is happy with live albums, so your enjoyment may vary. None of the songs surpass their studio incarnations with Fallon unable to replicate the same vocal performance, but it’s decent. And they found a way to make me enjoy a Katy Perry song, too.

Molly and the Zombies

This is a weird one because Molly and the Zombies never released an album. Instead, they created five somewhat Americana tracks that they’ve made available to stream and played live. They’re not officially available to purchase, but that doesn’t mean they’re not available to download. Just not legally. Most of these songs were re-recorded by Brian Fallon and included on his solo album, Painkillers.

Brian Fallon

Painkillers // 2016

Maybe I’m crazy, but I can totally hear the influence of producer Butch Walker in these songs. I mean, I’m a Butch Walker fan, so that’s not a criticism. Following the darker direction of The Horrible Crowes and the album Get Hurt, Brian Fallon took a step back with a more accessible sound that is (not to beat this to death) not unlike the production you’d hear in Butch Walker’s own music. Notably, Fallon included no higher-tempo tracks. Every song is mid-tempo or slower, a surprising contrast to his previous albums, excluding Elsie.

Recommended? // Last December, I named Painkillers my favorite album of 2016. That’s a pretty damn great recommendation, I would think.

May 29, 2017: New images. A few descriptions rewritten. Music videos added. Oh, and I added a segment about the album Painkillers.
May 31, 2017: Rewrote the rest of the text.


2 thoughts on “Old Haunts: Brian Fallon and The Gaslight Anthem

  1. Pingback: 10 Musical Artists Worth Giving a Damn About | namevah

  2. Pingback: 2016 Favorite Albums | namevah

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