high-top sneakers and sailor tattoos: why the gaslight anthem will rock my (your?) 2009;

6. My Three Words: The Gaslight Anthem

Why did it take me so long? Why did I cry off their December “first show in Glasgow” through tiredness and stress, why did I leave their magnificent 2008 album sitting on my desk at work over Christmas? Why has it only been these past few weeks that title track “The ’59 Sound” has burrowed its way into my dreams, my morning brain finally conceding its classic earworm properties?

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to my first “new favourite band” of 2009: The Gaslight Anthem.

Thinking about it logically this shouldn’t come as a massive surprise, as the band combine everything I love in one four-piece package: big, ballsy rock ‘n’ roll numbers, the occasional tender lyric directed at some fallen angel or other, classic cars and movie screens and a Springsteen reference roughly every second song. They’re like the Hold Steady without the emotional baggage; combining notes of the blues and alternative country with classic rock drivetime radio, a curled lip and a swagger. Songs like “Old White Lincoln” and “High Lonesome” would get me dancing on the bar-top in a red dress and cowboy boots, ten minutes before closing with a gin in my hand and a smile on my face.

there were southern accents on the radio
as I drove home
and at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
it’s a pretty good song
maybe you know the rest

Also rocking my not-as-yet DRM free iTunes this weather is No Lunch, the 1996 album from Jesse Malin’s bratty NY punks D-Generation. And I’m killing time until the release of Springsteen’s Working on a Dream later this month, of course – Stereogum has the video for Life Itself, and if you’re decidedly more American that I you can download the song for free at Amazon MP3.

BUY: The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
PREORDER: Bruce Springsteen – Working On a Dream (Special Edition)

[PHOTO: Day 6.]



  1. Whitney
    January 18, 2009 / 4:59 am

    Re: “Songs like “Old White Lincoln” and “High Lonesome” would get me dancing on the bar-top in a red dress and cowboy boots, ten minutes before closing with a gin in my hand and a smile on my face.”

    Please plan on doing this with me at some point in 2009. I know the perfect place. Maybe we can change the lyrics to “High Lonesome” to “Whitney came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand.”

  2. January 18, 2009 / 12:05 pm

    Believe it or not, whenever I sing that song in my head that’s always the lyrics I give it – unless I go for “Lissie went to Nashville with a suitcase in her hand…” x

  3. a
    January 26, 2009 / 11:37 pm

    They took the ‘Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand’ from Counting Crows. As well as the Elvis line that comes after, only mixing it up a little, just thought I’d let you guys know. Still a good song…but Round Here – Counting Crows is classic. Just didnt want you guys thinking this guy came up with those lines.

  4. January 27, 2009 / 9:16 am

    Oh, really? That’s disappointing. I loathe the Counting Crows, so missed that homage/reference/rip-off (the Springsteen ones on the rest of the album are obvious though ;)). Thanks for keeping me right!

  5. a
    January 31, 2009 / 10:16 pm

    ah! I had no idea about the Springsteen ones, haven’t heard many of his songs…are they ripping off his lyrics or music? I feel slightly cheated to be falling in love with this band’s music if my favourite parts all end up being rip-offs..
    ahhh give counting crows another go!! Mr Jones…Mrs Potter’s Lullaby…Holiday in Spain? are some good ones if you haven’t fully explored them 🙂

  6. February 11, 2009 / 10:02 pm

    Cheers for the recs, shall investigate! Again it’s the lyrics that the band use, but I think it’s the same sort of idea as the Counting Crows reference: more of a tribute than meant as a “rip off” (“at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet//it’s a pretty good song, baby you know the rest” is, for example, a reference to I’m On Fire). I sorta get the impression that the band view their life experience through the lens of their record collection… which is something I can relate to!

  7. John
    March 27, 2009 / 10:10 pm

    When they’re that clear, it’s an homage, not a rip-off. Similar, references to Tom Petty in Southern Accents, and Dickens.

  8. Jack
    June 19, 2009 / 6:39 am

    I always thought craig finn from the hold stead was pretty emotionally detached songs. His delivery is character based which makes it seem less whiny and narcissistic than the Gaslight.

    I would go as far as to say that the Gaslight Anthem has a ton more emotional baggage. Reread the lyrics to Old White Lincoln and tell me that is not some serious emotional baggage he is dealing with. “Where you just kept coming apart/straight in my arms/And I miss her sometimes/Shaking like a leaf on the corner of life/But I heard its alright…Trying to find someway to be redeemed”

  9. June 19, 2009 / 9:59 pm

    Jack: Yes, and even the title track itself… you don’t get much more “emotional” than “The ’59 Sound”. Saying that, I did write this six months ago when the Gaslight Anthem’s discography was decidedly less familiar to me than the Hold Steady’s!

    However, I’m not completely convinced I “believe” in the baggage as much as I’d like to… my other half sent me an essay a few weeks ago outlining his problem with the band – and the references that have been the subject of several comments above. I’ve been trying to get him into them, and he loves Sink or Swim, but he finds the references a bit distracting. “It just brings to mind people writing and singing about lives they’ve read about rather than seen, and who experienced youth and rebellion through their parents’ record collection,” he says.

    I don’t know if he’s right, and I don’t know if – even if he is – it’s such a bad thing. Don’t we all grow up on our parent’s records, to a certain extent? Either way, ace tunes regardless.

  10. viktor
    July 23, 2009 / 11:47 pm

    the best band in the last 20 fucking years guys!
    i love them!

  11. Mary
    March 11, 2010 / 2:22 am

    There’s also a reference to Springsteen in “Meet Me By the River’s Edge. The line “No surrender, my Bobby Jean” actually comes from the two song titles (“No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean”) off of Springsteen’s record “Born in the U.S.A.

    • March 15, 2010 / 10:52 pm

      I was actually talking about that song just the other day – that’s the one song that does make me squirm a little…