The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 08.12.2014
The Gaslight Anthem are back with their fifth studio album, Get Hurt! But does making some changes to their sound work in the album's favor or cause it to come up short? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Throughout their career, The Gaslight Anthem has drawn an inescapable comparison to Bruce Springsteen. It's not a surprising correlation; the New Jersey-based band has always been open about the heartland rock icon's influence on their sound and while they've always said they never set out to sound like the Boss, the fact remains that the inspiration is there. Whether (or at least, how much) that would continue came into question when in the lead-up to their new studio album, Brian Fallon toward people to expect something very different than what we were used to. "Completely different than anything we had ever done before" was how he described Get Hurt, promising that the band had "really changed up a lot of the sounds." That proclamation had fans simultaneously intrigued and worried: what would the new Gaslight Anthem sound like?
The answer, as it turns out, is not quite as distant as Fallon had implied. That's not to say that Get Hurt is just like every other Gaslight Anthem album; there is certainly a different sound at play. But at its core there are the same elements that make the band what they are; as consciously as the band is aiming to depart from their previous work, they still sound like the foursome who have been building their name as an alt-rock band over the past eight years.
The difference between where they have been and where they're going kick off right from the start. "Stay Vicious" is obviously the song that was in Fallon's mind when he cited Pearl Jam's No Code as an influence on this LP; the heavy, grungy guitar riffs that open the song are punctuated by powerful drumming while Fallon proclaims, "I feel just like a murderer, and I feel just like a gun/I've been shaking in the hands of somebody who's finally had enough." It's right after that when the more familiar Gaslight Anthem breaks through into a more melodic element for the chorus. It's the familiar heavy-gentle back and forth sound that the band is known for, but there is definitely something new here. It's an interesting experimentation and one that works surprisingly well; many times when a band knowingly tries to incorporate different sounds it comes off as forced. Here we have a much more natural bent that results in a song that works despite its obvious affectations.
That effect pervades much of Get Hurt, as the band try to crawl out of that heavy Springsteen-shaped shadow and stand on their own. Like "Stay Vicious," songs like "Helter Skeleton" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" hearken back to the era of Sink or Swim, their 2007 studio debut. "Rollin'" has that punk-meets-heartland rock aesthetic and has a good energy to it as it rolls along. The lyrics aren't the greatest; lines like "my ticker-tape heart broke and everything shook in here" don't exactly come across as well as Fallon and company clearly want it to. But the sound works and it's a feel-good stand up and dance song. Ironically that song sounds more like what they're trying to slip away from than anything else on the LP, but other songs such as closer "Dark Places" take their aesthetic and move it in a direction that feels like it can truly stand as something more unique. "Ain't That a Shame" is a highlight, with a sludgy opening that breaks into an earnest but grounded message.
It's not all about the grunge-heartland-punk rocking goodness though. The title track is another absolute highlight, a melancholy number that seems more complete as a musical number than any of the group's previous ballads. It's moody and introspective and certainly built for radio play, but that latter thing isn't necessarily a bad quality if the end result is a great piece of music and that's exactly what we get here.
If there are songs that don't stand out, they're ones were the band just doesn't feel like they're feeling it. "Selected Poems" is a good example of that. In addition to the cringe-worthy title that sounds like it should be the title of someone's LiveJournal, it doesn't manage the transition between soft and loud nearly as well as the rest of the album. It tries to morph itself from a gentle ballad to a midtempo rocker and that transition just comes across as jarring; it's two individually good portions of a song that don't add up to a cohesive whole. Meanwhile, "Red Violins" is a song that feels like filler, the kind of song that would have ended up on the cutting room floor if they had another options. "Underneath the Ground," on the other hand, does stand out but not really in the right way. While some of the musical choices work, it seems overly pop-sounding with an '80s synth aspect at times that clashes with the rest of the song. It's a collection of odd choices that adds up to the worst track on the album.
Standout Tracks: "Stay Vicious," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Ain't That a Shame," "Get Hurt"
Skippable: "Red Violin," "Selected Poems," "Underneath the Ground"
The 411: The Gaslight Anthem doesn't stretch as far out as Brian Fallon may have implied in the lead-up to Get Hurt, but they're definitely venturing outside their comfort zone and the results are often (if not always) good. Their core dynamic remains intact and while not everything they try here works, enough does that it's worth checking out. It's not the most cohesive effort, but it's an interesting listen and the kind of LP that grows on you with each listen.