New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem have always worn their influences proudly on their sleeves, from The Clash to Tom Petty and most obviously, their state’s most famous export, Bruce Springsteen. As writer Nick Hornby said of their previous album, 2012’s Handwritten, “if you haven’t heard anything like this before, then you’re probably listening to the wrong band anyway”.
That being said, Get Hurt is the most expansive Gaslight Anthem record yet. The album opens with ‘Stay Vicious’, a nod to ‘Stay Lucky’ (from third album American Slang) and a statement of intent. The track begins with the heaviest riff recorded by the band, sounding more like the alt rock of Stone Temple Pilots or Velvet Revolver than what TGA fans would have come to expect. As the verse makes way to the chorus, the guitars begin to chime and a familiar “la la la” bridge appears. Initially, this change from the norm is a little off-putting, however it becomes clear that the band are simply evolving their sound at a faster rate than before.
Singer Brian Fallon’s lyrics tend to choose from five topics: girls, heartbreak, girls, rock and roll, and his hometown. Drawing inspiration from Fallon’s recent divorce, Get Hurt focusses less on the contemporary American fairy tales carved out in previous releases. The dive bars, muscle cars and New Jersey streets have all but disappeared, although Fallon’s distinct poetic style remains. The lyrics are incredibly personal, whereas before they would often blend reality with romanticisms and fantasy.
As a result of this, the album runs the risk of suffering from repetition. Throughout different songs Fallon traverses despair, self-pity, and cynical anger, to reach catharsis. The theme is complemented by the band’s new style of song writing, while before songs were built around chord structures, on Get Hurt there is more emphasis on riffing and Benny Horowitz’ drumming. The upshot is a bruising album, perfectly capturing the fallout of a breakup.
Despite this change there are still tracks that sound like signature Gaslight Anthem, notably ‘1,000 Years’ and ‘Selected Poems’, the second of which is certainly a highlight of the album. Get Hurt is still rife with raucous singalong choruses and melodic guitar lines. The token slow acoustic song ‘Break Your Heart’ still makes an appearance towards the end of the record, and it showcases Fallon at his most poignant, crooning “there are things I have seen that I never will tell, that drove me out of my mind and inside myself”. What has changed is that The Gaslight Anthem have created an album that sounds like them. They’ve benefitted from various side projects (Fallon’s broody soul in The Horrible Crowes, and Horowitz’ DIY Punk outfit Bottomfeeder), and have matured as well as expanding their musical palette. After years of paying homage, regardless of their expertise at it, The Gaslight Anthem have found their identity amongst their influences.