The Gaslight Anthem- Sink Or Swim
Release Date: May 29th, 2007
Record Label: XOXO Records
New Jersey must be a breeding ground for good music. Spawning some of the largest names in the scene over the past few years, the state seems to be harboring the next big thing every few months. From the passion of Thursday to the emotion of Saves The Day, no genre is left untouched. It appears that the Garden State has spat up just what is needed in the recent sea of watered down releases; an honest to God, no frills punk rock record. Fans of Against Me! rejoice, New Jersey punks The Gaslight Anthem might have just released your new favorite record.
Although only forming in 2005, The Gaslight Anthem sound like a band that has been playing together for a decade. In fact, the comfort and maturity of their full length debut is so evident on just one spin of the disc that by the second run through, you will even feel as if you have been listening to them for a decade due to the instant familiarity demanded from Sink or Swim. While typically a stickler for originality, the lack of new ground broken on the release doesn’t seem to bother me. Perhaps it’s the catchiness or maybe even the sheer sincerity with which the words are crafted, but either way, a majority of the songs are strong enough that little qualms can be overlooked when listening to the final product. Though laced with a mix of folk sing-alongs, soul and even an acoustic ballad, Sink or Swim never strays too far from its core punk rock sound. The Gaslight Anthem realized what they do best and, admirably, didn’t try to expand out of their comfort zone. This, based on opinion, could be the album’s greatest strength or its largest weakness, but after spending a lot of time with the record, it didn’t bother me one bit. From the power chords to the soaring, melodic gang vocals, songs such as “Wooderson” and “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner” are chock full of everything you would expect to hear in a great punk song. On the softer side of things, there are two entirely acoustic songs on Sink or Swim. “The Navesink Banks” and “Red At Night” may be not be plugged in, but their melancholic atmosphere is a perfect interlude to the energetic punk that surrounds them.
Vocalist Brian Fallon has a talent for creating lyrics and melodies that are simple and catchy, yet never forced or unintelligent. “I Coulda Been A Contender” is the highlight of the album, both musically and vocally. The verses, which sound purposely restrained and believable, give way to a huge chorus sure to be sung at live shows for years to come. It is just a good rock song that shows off the many facets of Fallon’s voice while displaying the technical know how of the musicians. Fallon’s voice falls somewhere along the spectrum between Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin and Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzenbach in his prime. It wouldn’t be out of line to assume that The Gaslight Anthem is paying homage to both bands with certain vocal subtleties that could be considered nods to the definitive punk bands. While we are on the subject of similar sounding bands, it would be difficult to not mention influence of future tour mates Against Me!. The “woahs” on “Boomboxes and Dictionaries” seems as if it was directly ripped from Against Me!’s “Sink. Florida. Sink.”, but I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery, because it works in both songs. Even though there are traces of the band’s influence all over Sink or Swim, it is utilized in a way that doesn’t detract from the credibility of The Gaslight Anthem. Despite the comparisons, there is enough here for the band to stand on its own. They have created a great punk rock record and an incredibly solid debut. If The Gaslight Anthem continue on this path, I see big things for future releases and a growing fan base. While it may not be the most original, at the very least Sink or Swim will tide over fans awaiting a new Against Me! disc.
i've had the pleasure of these handome boys playing in my basement in new brunswick and it was so punk rock, i had to shit my pants in order to equate my level of punk rawkness to the situation around me. they have yet to give me a complimentary copy of the record. what the hell guys? :)