Somewhere between the Newark punk scene and Asbury Park’s heartland rock falls the Gaslight Anthem’s latest release American Slang. Brian Fallon and Co. turn in a disc of melodic (and rather catchy) tunes, all without compromising their punk rock roots. Despite the ease at which these songs lend themselves to singing(or chanting) along, they avoid the predictable and formulatic pop punk pitfalls that so many other bands looking to “break out” have fallen into.
American Slang avoids cliche like the plague, refusing to be pigeon holed into a neat little genre marked box. From Fallon’s weathered voice right down to the band’s gritty bar room sound this disc has authenticity written all over it. While the Springsteen comparison’s the band has been receiving may be a bit premature, his influence is certainly apparent, and the songs are better for it.
The album is without a full fledged standout, but that is more of a testament to the consistency of the album’s material than anything else. All ten tracks on the album are rock solid, contributing to the “greater than the sum of it’s parts” quality of the album. The band’s top notch songwriting and passionate performances combine for a great listen, and an easy addition to Ipods everywhere.
Next week, NJ punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem will be releasing their third full length album American Slang. You don’t have to wait to hear the album, as it is streaming for free in its entirety on NPR’s website. The first two singles from the album, “Boxer” and “American Slang” have both been getting a lot of play on my Ipod, so I am very pleased to check out the rest of the album.
Check out the album for free here, and look forward to a full review coming soon.
Josh Ritter announced on his website a week ago that his “Secret Rehearsal Show” at The Saint in Asbury Park was no longer a secret and the crew here at MOR jumped at the chance to see Josh in such an intimate setting. The Saint is an Asbury Park staple that hits capacity at 170 people and has hosted countless high (and even more low) profile acts over the years.
Josh Ritter bounded onto the stage with a grin from ear to ear and began jumping up and down like a little boy who just found out his parents got him that shiny red bicycle he had been wishing for. The crowd took to him, and his newly coined Royal City Band, right away as they opened the show with upbeat crowd pleasers like “Rumors” and “Right Moves” that had Josh pouring with sweat right off the bat. Then he slowed it down, literally turned the lights off and sang to the crowd like we were all crowded into his kitchen on some lazy Thursday night and he just so happened to pick up a guitar to play an impromptu singalong. The way he brought the energy up and down with ease was impressive and showed that he knew how to please the people in the crowd who wanted to rock out, lay back and relax, or maybe have a little bit of both.
He understood the charm and intimacy that a small venue brings and played to it like a pro. He inserted stories about why, how or when he wrote certain songs providing that storytellers aspect to the show without the nuisance of tuning into VH1. During “Girl in the War” he stepped away from the microphone and lead the crowd in a full on singalong which gave the performance that X factor that you can’t experience in most venues. In fact the venue was so small that most people there (including me) were so captivated by Josh that they didn’t even notice Bruce Springsteen was one of the hundred lucky fans in attendance. Josh told a story about how Springsteen’s music influenced his songwriting early on and played “Tomorrow Never Knows” off the Bruce’s new album Working on a Dream as a tribute. He joked that all his stories about Bruce Springsteen involve driving around in a Toyota Tercel listening to his music alone, but after they drove off together in Bruce’s car following the show I’m willing to bet he’s got some better ones.
Although the slow songs provided the sweet and intimate moments, the high energy tunes with the full band were where the evening really shined. The Royal City Band is more than solid and Josh does a great job of featuring them and highlighting their talent. The lead guitarist Austin Nevins was tearing it up and the bass player Zack Hickman looked like he was about to rock his amazingly awesome handlebar mustache right off his face. It was obvious the band was having a great time, especially Josh who played the entire show with a ridiculous amount of energy, exuberance and childlike joy that just made you want to smile right along with him.
Although it was a so called “Rehearsal Show” the new songs off the upcoming album were blending well into the set and although some of them felt a little slow they never seemed out of place. Josh played 5 songs off of his new album So Runs the World Away: “Rattling Locks,” “Southern Pacifica,” Folk Bloodbath,” “The Curse,” “Another New World,” and the first single “Change of Time.” “Rattling Locks” was the show’s opening tune and it had an infectious rhythm that the bass player, drummer, and keyboardist banged out on drum sticks while Josh crooned his tortured lyrics. The other new songs were all quiet melodic tunes that in the context of a high energy fun show seemed a bit forgettable, but I reserve final opinion until hearing the entire album.
So now that I’ve gushed all over Josh and his Royal City Band, I have to come clean and admit that I am a huge Josh Ritter fan and this show was something special that I will remember for many years to come. I’m now convinced that Josh’s voice is one of the best out there right now, it’s gritty and harsh, soft and melodic or quick and sharp depending on the song and his songwriting is hard to match if you’re looking for catchy folk songs. Such a great night and a nice way to show appreciation to his fans by playing in a tiny venue and selling tickets for only $15 a piece. Josh is definitely one to watch for the future and enjoy here in the present.
In the Dark
Girl in the War
Change of Time
To the Dogs or Whoever
Another New World
Tomorrow Never Knows
Come and Find Me
Snow is Gone
For more Josh Ritter goodness check out our “You Still Haven’t Heard of Josh Ritter” Playlist inspired by the standouts in this show’s set list.