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First Impressions: The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
First Impressions: The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
05/16/12 at 08:56 PM by Jason Tate
There are moments when I'm listening to The Gaslight Anthem that I start to get this odd feeling in my stomach ... it's this feeling that starts in my abdomen and then crawls upward toward the chest. It's this feeling that I'm witnessing something special. That I'm seeing something classic, timeless, spark up in front of me - and that I would be forever wrong to turn away. It's this feeling that I'm inside of a time capsule ... and 20, 30, 50 years from now there will be someone listening to these songs and wondering what it was like to hear them when the band first wrote them. To experience them when they first hit the airwaves.

It's the same feeling when I ask my dad what it was like to live through Elvis. The Beatles. Bob Dylan. When I ask if he ever stopped and realized what was happening in the music at that moment and how important this was going to be. Did anyone know? Was anyone thinking about that? Or were the songs all that mattered?

There will be a dad. There will be a son. There will be a day when these questions are asked about The Gaslight Anthem. I'm starting to feel it in my bones in a way I haven't felt in years. It's that clammy feeling that hits my palms before I hit play. It's that rush that hits my brain when the first chord hits. It's the way my heart swells at lines that seem plucked from forgotten dreams, or stolen from buried lusts. There are times where I feel like I'm watching this play out from a point just out of frame. Where I'm seeing something transpire that I know is important, that I know is shaping music, and while cognizant of this ... I just want to shut the world off and listen to the music. I just want to get lost in every single word. I just want to push the headphones in, turn the volume up, and not give a fuck if I blow out my ears -- because if the last sound I heard was a song like this -- I'd probably have to be ok with it.

The new record sounds like a band at the top of their game. It sounds like a band that has come fully into what they want to be ... and they have actualized this sound into an emotional journey of sonic bliss. The production sounds so big that each drum beat and bass line hit you hard in the chest with anthematic fury. With each passing song I can only smile ... it's that smile that comes from having such high expectations for a band ... and them being met in ways you never truly expected. It's from thinking that you've seen all the tricks a band has up their sleeves, and then they drop something like "Mae" on you and you're realizing they have a whole new level. It's from wanting something that moves you ... and getting something that could define the last year of your life. It's from hours lost as you move between songs, and stories, and tempos. Each lyric blood on the page. It's from heartbreak, to redemption. It's from them ... to you. It's from reminiscing at the handful of times I've heard an album and thought I just heard a band taking a leap into musical greatness. It's from looking at the timeline of these memories and realizing that not all of my greatest moments with music have already been written. That not every band, album, and song that's going to change my life has already been sung. That the last time I'll type, "this is why love music," hasn't yet occurred.

This is why I love music.
This is what I look for each time I push "play."
This is the dragon I chase ... and this is the high that comes from it.

Handwritten is personal, deep, and intense. There are moments that remind me of The '59 Sound ("Howl") and songs that take what I saw in "Red Night" to a level that leaves me speechless ("National Anthem"). There are moments that make me think the band can write hooks with the best of them ("Handwritten") and times I feel like Brian's unique vocals are the most emotive in music ("Too Much Blood"). Is it good? Yeah. It's good. It's so good it may just be career defining good. I can't tell you after 5 or 6 listens what it does for me 8 months down the right. I can't tell you what it does for me 20 years down the road. I can tell you what it does for me right now. And as I sit here, alone, pushing 9 o'clock on a random Wednesday in Portland, Oregon. Sitting my my office, beer in one hand, keyboard in the other. I'm listening to this line, "I remember she used to look so good in that dress, now she just screams how I promised her more than this ... take it easy baby, it ain't over yet." -- and I'm thinking words don't do justice to the way music can make you feel. A feeble blog post will never describe the way a lyric can pull the blood out of your head and leave you dizzy.

I'm thinking, folks, I only hope it hits you the same.
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