The Gaslight Anthem
Sink or Swim
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Now that Against Me! have shot into the commercial semi-stratosphere, their past tourmate The Gaslight Anthem are among the bands poised to fill their shoes in the sweaty basements of the American underground, in front of kids who like their punk tempered with pop sensibilities and blue collar workmanship. On the latter point, The Gaslight Anthem didn’t need to look outside of their state lines for inspiration; Bruce Springsteen is having a huge 2007 on press sheets, and his influence is more palpable than, say, bands like The Velvet Underground or Radiohead, who are often name-checked but seldom really emulated. Brian Fallon’s hard-scrabble tales get titles like “I Coulda Been A Contender,” with its opening line “I’m broke and I’m hungry / I’m hard up and lonely / I been dancing on this killing floor for years.”
While Sink or Swim effectively maintains its momentum, it also has the feel of an album that could be outclassed by its follow-up, as the quartet will hopefully sharpen their songwriting skills and continue to develop their own niche within a genre that, admittedly, isn’t nearly as tapped out as most of them (Against Me! has fewer direct kindred spirits than, say, Rise Against). Hooky tracks like “Boomboxes and Dictionaries” and “Drive” dig in on first listen, but sometimes the high-energy melodies, like on “1930,” never fully engage.
Aside from their fellow Jerseyman, the band tips their hat to a few other icons, quoting Bob Dylan in “Angry Johnny and the Radio” and using the melody from Billy Bragg & Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue standout “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” as the launch pad for closer “Red at Night.” The latter provides Fallon with a chance to use his “acoustic voice,” which, unlike his usual lead vocal, bears little in common with AM!’s Tom Gabel. Fast or slow, there’s an appealing earnestness to Fallon and his band’s folk-punk treatments. Definitely one to watch.
More by this writer:
Rise Against - Interview 
Cursive - The Difference Between Houses and Homes
Sebadoh - III
Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll