Having taken the same path over the course of three albums, The Gaslight Anthem‘s major label debut marks a significant change for the band. It sees them shaking off their punk shackles of old, as they prepare to take on the stadiums of the world. Handwritten is a rock album and makes no apologies for being such, laden with atmospheric anthems designed purely to be sung by large crowds and produced by Brendan O’Brien, who has previously worked with the likes of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen.
‘45’ wastes no time in announcing the band’s new and improved style, an upbeat tune with a great chorus that lays down a strong marker for the rest of the album. The title track does well to keep the pace, an expertly crafted tune that makes it clear that Fallon’s attitude and approach to songwriting has also evolved. Handwritten is a more personal album than its predecessors, with lyrics drawing on Fallon’s own life experiences – “every word handwritten”.
Keeping to this pace throughout, Handwritten comes to an eloquant halt with a duo of subtle tracks. ‘Mae’ is an inspired love ballad, but ‘National Anthem’ is the real gem, a blend of acoustic melodies with deep lyrics that helps to showcase new facets of The Gaslight Anthem’s music. Overall, this is an exceptional album. The singles are memorable and the track layout perfectly balanced. Brendan O’Brien has allowed them to seamlessly channel their influences (Springsteen is still omnipresent) but also keep their sound fresh and original. Their previous three albums have been a steady climb to the top of American rock music. Handwritten announces their arrival.