After a two year wait, The Gaslight Anthem return with Handwritten. The record has been in the works for a year, with ‘Biloxi Parish’ having been written this time last year. With single, and opening track, ‘45’ launched by none other than Zane Lowe, there was the feeling of a special album on the way.
Handwritten has a bigger sound than previous albums. Right from ‘45’ to penultimate track ‘Mae’, the energetic sound that is expected from The Gaslight Anthem bursts out of your speakers. The drums and guitars grab your attention and become infectiously catchy by ‘Here Comes My Man’, only the third track in! The production quality is slick and well balanced, with subtle uses of echo and bells used at various points. As usual Fallon’s lyrics are direct and his vocals are very polished and although it sounds like he is just about to go from singing to shouting, the energy and emotion he puts into every sentence is very clear to hear.
This said, throughout the album it feels like The Gaslight Anthem have settled for what they’ve produced. Rather than push themselves and try something different, they have kept very much in their comfort zone. The final track ‘National Anthem’ is the only noticeable change of pace in the album – otherwise it is very difficult to distinguish the songs from Handwritten from almost the entirety of their back catalogue.
The main redeeming feature is that there are some very strong tracks on the album such as ‘Handwritten’, ‘Keepsake’ and in particular ‘Howl’. If you are already a fan, then this album may have some of your favourite tracks on it, but, after three albums which sound almost exactly like this, there is reason to be disappointed.
For those who haven’t listened to The Gaslight Anthem before, if you like the single ‘45’, you’ll like the album.