The Gaslight Anthem is:
Brian Fallon – vocals, guitar
Alex Roasmilia – guitar
Alex Levin – bass
Benny Horowitz – drum
The Gaslight Anthem – The B-Sides
1. She Loves You
2. The '59 Sound (acoustic)
3. State of Love and Trust (live)
4. Tumbling Dice
5. The Queen of Lower Chelsea (acoustic)
6. Songs for Teenagers
7. Great Expectations (acoustic)
8. Antonia Jane (acoustic)
9. American Slang (acoustic)
10. Boxer (acoustic)
11. Once Upon a Time
Running time: 36:15
Since the Gaslight Anthem announced on Independence Day 2013 that work had begun on a new album, fans have been treated to a special edition singles collection released last year and now this, The B-Sides. As the title suggests, this record is not a new studio album nor does it feature a plethora of new material – it's a collection of B-sides, acoustic versions of some their more well-known tracks, a live track and a handful of cover songs. The majority of these songs have been made previously available with the release of singles or on special editions of the band's previously released studio albums. But fans waiting patiently on the follow up to 2012's Handwritten are itching for any and all things Gaslight and as such, they're likely to be satisfied with this new release.
Fans are treated to unplugged versions of a couple of tracks from the band's ever popular record The 59's Sound. That album's title track is given a stripped down makeover here with the vocal of Brian Fallon dropping an octave in order to give the track a more intimate and sometimes more intense flavour. Fallon manages to maintain more than a modicum of power in his vocal despite the change in surrounding and it gives the track such a delicate level of intimacy that it never really had before. I wouldn't go as far to say it outdoes the original, but it certainly puts an itriguing new spin on it that will delight fans. “Great Expectations,” also from The '59 Sound, gets the same treatment and with results of similar success. Vocally, Brian Fallon is one of the most recognisable male leads in modern rock music and he sounds as smooth as ever on this cut. It's poignant, it's understated and it's more than worth a listen.
Outside of the acoustic re-workings, there's a handful of cover songs here, ranging from the bold and daring (Rolling's Stones' “Tumbling Dice” gets a re-working, while “Antonia Jane” by indie outfit Lightning Dust takes a dramatic turn) to the misplaced and unfortunate (the band take on Pearl Jam's “State of Love and Trust” is a misstep). “Tumbling Dice” sounds like it could've been written by Fallon and co., it fits quite nicely in their back catalogue. They handle it well, paying the track a decent homage while still tweaking it enough to make the cover worthwhile. Arguably this what the band fails to do with Pearl Jam's “State of Love and Trust.” It's almost as if they pay too much respect to this admittedly mammoth songs, but by worrying about the record's fragility they fail to impart their sound on the cover outside of giving it a bit of a new sheen and then we're left asking just what the point of the whole experiment was. At least on “Antonia Jane,” the band strips out the piano work that was a key feature of the original to give the song a new sound, but fans of the original probably won't like it – maybe that piano was too an integral element. Fallon's vocal takes “Songs for Teenagers,” a track by label-mate Fake Problems, and proceeds to violate it in a way that's so blissfully unashamed that it actually works. It's a little known song so you be forgiven for thinking it was a Gaslight original, they make such a good job of it.
“She Loves You” stands out as the solitary cut from the record that is decidedly new. Die-hard fans of Gaslight Anthem may have previously been able to track the song down as I believe it was cut late from the band's 2010 album American Slang and might have been available on international deluxe editions of said album. Regardless, it's new to many and its typically Gaslight, full of slick guitar offshoots and swirling vocals chasing a dream of lost love, but doing it in a poetic way rather than a pathetic warbling. It's brave and powerful, and it's everything you might have come to expect from this band. While that begs the question why it's got lumbered on this record and not a full length LP, it's 50/50 as to whether it ranks among the band's very best or whether it just sounds better hidden amongst all these other offcuts. That's the problem every B-side collection will inevitably have. More often than not, these songs are B-sides for a reason and as such every track has something of a handicap before the disc even begins turning.
On the other hand, “Boxer” shows why B-side records are worth doing. The track, originally taken from the band's American Slang record, gets a complete acoustic reworking and the result is something that is so far distanced from the sound of the original, it almost sounds like a completely different song. It may not be better than the original, but it's so completely different that it'll likely enhance your opinion of the original, almost as if it's making you fall in love with the song all over again. This track proceeds “Once Upon a Time,” it's a cover of Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise and it's an ode to the musical heroes of yesteryear, including Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Elvis, but its soaked in a genuine vocal that makes you believe it's the band's own track. It's a sound that ignores the band's youthful pompous and pays testament to the maturity of their own songwriting. Songs like the album's two closing efforts make you grateful artists release collections like these.
The Gaslight Anthem - “She Loves You”
The 411: At best, a B-sides collection gives fans a glimpse into an artist's psyche and leaves you wondering why certain takes never made it to radio as tracks from studio albums. Think The Who's Odds and Sods, Oasis' The Masterplan, Nirvana's Incesticide and Damien Rice's B-Sides.. At worst, such records make you instantly aware of why these tracks hadn't made it onto records and come off as nothing more than a complete and utter cash-in. The lack of material on this collection that wasn't already available to fans means this album will fall somewhere in the middle, but the quality here is undeniable at times. There's certain missteps for sure, and fans will have heard most of it before anyway. But certain tracks are fantastic, and there's one or two acoustic version that you could well argue are on par with their originals and for a band as good as The Gaslight Anthem, that's no small feat. But lads, hurry up and get that new studio album out.