Since their debut album Sink or Swim back in 2007, The Gaslight Anthem have grown stronger and stronger with each release. Out of their solid back catalogue, none of their releases have been as watched out for as Handwritten, given frontman Brian Fallon’s admission that following their previous release, American Slang, he was worried that TSA had run its course; however, as you listen to Handwritten, it’s obvious the band is back and in better shape than they’ve ever been.
Opening track 45 was the first single off the release and kicks off the album with a bang and one of the most infectious chorus’s ever. The ode to good times and heartbreak is not only a stand-out song on the album but probably the best TGA song yet. The minimal instrumental side of Mullholland Drive gives Fallon’s bluesy, sexy-as-fuck voice centre stage, though his sound simply shines through in Too Much Blood as he grunts his way through the verse.
The fact that the guitars, drum and bass never overshadow the vocals draws agency to the story of the album. Though the riffs are big, and the melodies are a mix of both the simply genius to meticulously technical, it’s the words, and their deeply personal nature that will get you. It’s songs such as Desire, with lines such as ‘What makes a woman believe in a man such as me/unworthy to sit at your good or your crown/I can only let you down…’ that make you think that maybe there’s more to this album than meets the, well, ears.
The album finishes off with an acoustic ballad National Anthem. The subtle orchestral backing adds so much depth to the tune. The references to yesteryear and past lovers are done in a way that they are totally indirect and everyone will be able to relate to the ideas Fallon is singing about.
The album fades to black rather than burns out, but won’t by any means leave you feeling underwhelmed. It will leave you pondering a lot about your own past experiences and thinking ‘I should write a song about what I’ve been through!’ (But don’t, god, please, don’t). Handwritten is one of those blue moon albums that’s vindictive enough for you to let your guard down, but with enough mongrel in it to bite you with the snarling fangs you won’t even see coming. And it’s not going to simply let go.