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The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt Album Cover

The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt

Reviewed by
8.5
The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt
Release Date: August 12, 2014
Record Label: Island Records
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
“Completely different than anything we had ever done before.”

That’s the description that Brian Fallon, frontman for New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem, gave to Rolling Stone in regards to Get Hurt, the band’s fifth full-length studio album. In fact, in the lead up to this record, Fallon made numerous statements just like that, talking about how he and his band spent the writing and recording sessions for album number five listening to famous records where bands had changed course and gotten “weird.” For some, hearing Fallon reference U2’s Achtung Baby and how it took that band’s sound in a completely new direction, was reason to become uneasy. After all, The Gaslight Anthem is a band that has made a career out of following small progressions from album to album, changing up the themes, lyrics, and song structures, but always maintaining the same core Jersey rock and roll sound. The prospect of a “weird” Gaslight Anthem album was nerve-wracking because, for many, imagining what that album could even possibly sound like was borderline impossible.

For others though, the idea of Fallon and co. going in a completely new direction was an appealing one. 2012’s Handwritten, the band’s last record, doubled down on riffs, hooks, and shiny production, but for many, it lost the street-rat charm that made both The 59 Sound and American Slang welcoming and relatable. Those fans will be pleasantly surprised by the first moments of Get Hurt, where a sludgy wall of guitars breaks through the speakers with fuzz and fury. The opener, the booming and bustling “Stay Vicious,” is the grittiest this band has sounded in years, replacing the last record’s Oasis-sized arena rock with something more akin to the dirty nineties grunge of Pearl Jam and Nirvana—both bands that The Gaslight Anthem covered on their last tour.

For an intro and a verse, “Stay Vicious” is a welcoming entry point for fans who still hold Gaslight’s debut record, the loud and unpolished Sink or Swim, as the band’s gold standard. (The fact that the song is laced with Fallon’s grimmest lyricism in half a decade, with winning lines like “I have pills for this, tabs for that/And something that used to resemble a soul,” only furthers its “return-to-form” MO.) But then “Stay Vicious” breaks into its chorus, and everything changes. Rather than the roaring, vocal-cord-shredding hook that one might have expected from a Gaslight Anthem opener built in the vein of a straight-ahead Pearl Jam rocker, “Stay Vicious” opts instead to subvert expectations, dropping into a slow-burn, eye-of-the-storm refrain that has more in common with The National than it does with Nirvana. It’s a beautiful, rain-drenched moment, and it adds an intriguing dichotomy to a song that could have easily been a loud, generic throwaway. It also forces you to start paying attention: maybe this is what Fallon was talking about in all of those pre-release interviews.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what kind of fan you are), “Stay Vicious” is the exception rather than the rule. While there are songs on Get Hurt that take The Gaslight Anthem’s sound in new directions, it turns out that Fallon didn’t go quite far enough in trying to write a career shift into his band’s narrative. In other words, after all of Fallon’s hype, Get Hurt feels strangely safe, even if it is a good deal more exploratory than Handwritten ever was. Even the songs that do different things, like the gorgeously melancholy title track, the Tom Waits-esque “Underneath the Ground,” or the shapeshifting “Selected Poems,” don’t feel shocking, since they are hitting many of the same sonic pressure points that Fallon built his Horrible Crowes project on three years ago.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t fantastic songs, though. On the contrary, the sweeping “Get Hurt” is one of the best things Fallon has ever written, with a heartwrenching bridge (“Maybe you needed a change, and maybe I was in the way,” he bellows in the final moments of the song, a simplistic line that hits like a wrecking ball thanks to the booming nature of the arrangement and to Fallon’s better-than-ever vocal delivery) and crystal clear studio work from producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, The 1975) that make it the clear lynchpin of the record. “Selected Poems” is more traditional Gaslight fare, but don’t be surprised if the song’s intro, ripped straight from the middle of Elsie, lulls you into a false sense of security. Even if it’s safer than I would like it to be, Get Hurt still has a few surprises up its sleeve, and the swan dive into the main body of “Selected Poems” is the best one. “I was fortunately desperate and turbulently innocent,” Fallon shouts as the song kicks into high gear, moments before launching into the record’s most incendiary chorus: “And all I seem to find is that everything has chains/And all this life just feels like a series of dreams,” Fallon rages on the hook, referencing Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy” in the same way he used to reference Springsteen.

And that’s arguably the biggest departure evident on Get Hurt: for the first time, Fallon is cribbing almost no moves from the Boss. The 59 Sound was a veritable scavenger hunt for Springsteen references, and American Slang based many of its themes of fading youth on Born to Run. Even Handwritten, which started Fallon’s move away from loving homage, had its Bruce parallels, from the Spectorian “wall of sound” evident on “Here Comes My Man” to the crashed American Dream of “National Anthem.” Here, Fallon seems to be writing songs that make a purposeful effort to get away from the Springsteen comparisons. It’s not hard to see why he’s doing it—a few years ago, he wrote a disgruntled open letter about concertgoers who would request Bruce songs at Gaslight shows instead of his songs—but considering the many great places the Springsteen influence has taken Fallon over the years, it’s a shame that the frontman has evidently decided to retire it.

Replacing Springsteen here are Fallon’s other heroes: Vedder, Cobain, and Petty, chief among them. The latter crops up on the album’s most patent Gaslight tunes, like “1,000 Years,” a kicking heartland rock track that would have been right at home on American Slang. A definite album highlight, “1,000 Years” has one of the most instantly memorable chorus melodies Fallon has ever written. It’s a hook worthy of “summer jam” distinction, and it should have been the lead-off single. The other Petty number is “Break Your Heart,” which fills this album’s “acoustic ballad” slot. It’s a familiar and predictable track, a pleasant piece of dusky folk-pop that feels like a natural-born penultimate number.

Unfortunately, in context of the raucous and scatterbrained Get Hurt, “Break Your Heart” feels almost jarring, like an attempt to replicate the introspective conclusion to Handwritten, only without the same level of cohesion. It’s not the fault of Fallon’s songwriting that “Break Your Heart” fails, though some will undoubtedly accuse it of being too maudlin. Instead, the problem is the overall sequencing of the record. After the first three tracks, Get Hurt fires off a number of songs that feel more like one-off diversions than parts of an album experience. The eerie “Stray Paper,” with its female back-up vocals and a histrionic delivery from Fallon (not unlike “Too Much Blood,” the last album’s overwrought centerpiece) is particularly guilty of this offense, as is the torrid, lyrically clumsy “Helter Skeleton.” Neither track is bad, but both feel a bit misplaced coming after the infectious “1,000 Years” and the grandiose title track. Similarly, lead single “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” is a killer throwback to the band’s early days that just doesn’t fit here, while “Red Violins” is this album’s “Desire,” an enjoyable piece of filler that will undoubtedly be singled out as a representation of everything this album is lacking.

Reorganized into a different order (or even altered a bit to include one or two of the bonus tracks), Get Hurt might have felt like a more connected and well-paced project. As is, it’s a bizarre jumble of ideas from a band that has at very least always done a great job at following a complete arc through their albums. The last few songs make a valiant attempt to restore the mood set by record’s opening, with “Selected Poems” and “Ain’t That a Shame” returning to the same dark and confused vein of the first three songs. Album finale “Dark Places,” meanwhile, goes back to the well that provided “The Backseat”—the epic closer from The 59 Sound, and still the band’s best song—for a fitting send-off. Everything about the song, from the almost imperceptible vinyl scratch of the opening notes, to the defining line of the chorus (“How many nights did I crash against the waves without going under?”), recalls the youthful beachside atmosphere of The 59 Sound. In other words, it’s a thrilling time capsule number for early fans of the band, filled with crashing drums, throwback guitar tones, and a swelling atmosphere that legitimately feels like the salt of sea spray on a hot August night. Whether or not it makes sense as the closer for this particular album will be debated, but for a set of songs that goes all over the place while revisiting virtually every stage of Fallon’s career, tying everything neatly together was never going to be a viable option.

Ultimately, Get Hurt isn’t The Gaslight Anthem’s best album, nor is it the one that people are going to remember years for now for taking their career in a new direction. Instead, it’s almost like a “greatest hits, new songs” kind of deal, a record that will appease and frustrate fans in equal measure, depending on which era of the band’s history they appreciate the most. Sure, it’s disheartening that the album isn’t the game-changing record Fallon promised, and it’s too bad that it doesn’t have the thesis-statement cohesion of albums like The 59 Sound and American Slang. But the songs are still great, the production is still excellent, and the performances of the band members have rarely been in finer form. Here’s hoping that, since Get Hurt essentially sums up the first chapter of The Gaslight Anthem, album number six will be able to start the second chapter in uncharted territory.

8.5/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 172
06:23 AM on 08/05/14
#2
zachff
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Great review, very well written and well thought out.

I was able to give this record a listen this morning before I read this review, and this line:
Quote:
Instead, it’s almost like a “greatest hits, new songs” kind of deal
really sums it up well for me.

While there were some great throwback type songs, if you will, I don't think Fallon + Co pushed the envelope far enough outside their normal box. I could have gone without the S/S or 59S recalls if they'd gone all Daisy on us but as a whole Get Hurt just feels like a half measure.

I haven't gotten a chance to listen to the bonus tracks yet but the first thing I thought of when I finished listening was, "This album could have used some resequencing."

Maybe I'll update this comment in a week or two after I've had some more time with the album.
06:27 AM on 08/05/14
#3
Lawrence
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Glad to see you got to do the review for this one, Craig.

I'm listening now and as someone who doesn't care for the 1975 I was a little worried about the production on this but so far, so good despite it being a stream.

The shift from Bruce to Petty jumped out at me instantly. Listening to the new Petty album last week I kept thinking about how excited I was for some new Fallon. Serendipity and all of that.
All in all, much like the new Hold Steady this is what I expected from the band despite the rhetoric about change thats old hat with bands at this stage of their career. Or maybe I'm just cynical at 29?

As long as Dark Places is better than National Anthem I'll be happy.
06:45 AM on 08/05/14
#4
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Well I listened this album and....wow...it's like 3-4 songs that can be considered as enjoyable...Get Hurt, Red Violins and Underneath The Ground...

This album is 10/6 at best.
06:50 AM on 08/05/14
#5
mms13
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Diving in...the first track sounds like Velvet Revolver. This is not a good thing. Stay tuned.
07:06 AM on 08/05/14
#6
Publichousing
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Just finished my third listen. I'm absolutely head over heels. A lot of this record does indeed bear close resemblance to Elsie ("Stray Paper", "Underneath The Ground", "Selected Poems", "Ain't That A Shame") but that's exactly the style I've wanted Fallon to continue with since I first heard that record. It's a BIG return to form, imo. Handwritten wasn't "bad", but I feel like it completely lacked personality; something they had in spades before that. The lyrics this time around are a lot better too.

I don't agree that there's no Bruce influence at all. The first thing I thought of when I heard the title track was "not gonna shake those Boss comparisons like this", at least until the chorus kicked in. I hear it in "Break Your Heart" and "Dark Places" too.

I can't make a definitive call yet, but this could rival The '59 Sound as their best. Maybe I'm just excited. Time will tell, I guess.
07:06 AM on 08/05/14
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Ben Lee
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I guess I've always preferred Petty over Springsteen (even though I really like both.) so this album hits the spot for me. The review was written well, but it felt nit-picky at times. No slight to you, I'm just more of "appreciate the songs for what they are right now and don't compare them to everything else in their discog" type of person.

None the less, I really love this album! ROCK AND ROLL IS ALIVE AND WELL.
07:23 AM on 08/05/14
#8
Keele
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Brian has always stated a major Tom Petty influence so I don't get this line "Replacing Springsteen here are Fallon’s other heroes: Vedder, Cobain, and Petty, chief among them" in the review. They covered Tom Petty on Handwritten "You Got Lucky" and "Refugee" on the itunes sessions. There is a reference to Petty on '59 Sound. They used to cover American Girl live.

Brian has lots of influences and has always talked about them fondly. Everyone just jumps to Springsteen because of the local connection, guest appearances, and friendship. He's been on stage with Eddie Vedder before and they recorded a State of Love Trust along time ago. Plus a Cobain/Nirvana cover on Handwritten. It's probably more willingness to try what some influences have done instead of trying to be them in a cover.

This album is sounding awesome though. Love this band.
07:24 AM on 08/05/14
#9
derekjd
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I'm really digging this. It feels less cohesive definitely, and I'm going to play around with re-sequencing (for my first time, so pray for me) but I think that, if I could fix the tracklisting, this would go down as the record I have wanted from them since I found the band a few years ago.
Great job with your review as well, by the way.
07:25 AM on 08/05/14
eagles1139
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Unpopular opinion possibly: I think "Break Your Heart" is better than "National Anthem". I think Tom Petty fans will agree
07:31 AM on 08/05/14
Craig Manning
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Great review, very well written and well thought out.

I was able to give this record a listen this morning before I read this review, and this line:

really sums it up well for me.

While there were some great throwback type songs, if you will, I don't think Fallon + Co pushed the envelope far enough outside their normal box. I could have gone without the S/S or 59S recalls if they'd gone all Daisy on us but as a whole Get Hurt just feels like a half measure.

I haven't gotten a chance to listen to the bonus tracks yet but the first thing I thought of when I finished listening was, "This album could have used some resequencing."

Maybe I'll update this comment in a week or two after I've had some more time with the album.

I feel like I would like this record more if Brian hadn't hyped it as a completely different kind of sound. You can hear them going there a few times, but usually, they pull back right before they really take the plunge. Maybe they were worried about alienating fans? I don't know.

Glad to see you got to do the review for this one, Craig.

I'm listening now and as someone who doesn't care for the 1975 I was a little worried about the production on this but so far, so good despite it being a stream.

The shift from Bruce to Petty jumped out at me instantly. Listening to the new Petty album last week I kept thinking about how excited I was for some new Fallon. Serendipity and all of that.
All in all, much like the new Hold Steady this is what I expected from the band despite the rhetoric about change thats old hat with bands at this stage of their career. Or maybe I'm just cynical at 29?

As long as Dark Places is better than National Anthem I'll be happy.

Thanks! I bargained my way into it.

Why no love for The 1975? But honestly, Crossey goes more Arctic Monkeys than 1975 here. He's a more anonymous producer than O'Brien was, too, so I don't think he really adds that much or takes away that much. He's more like the guy they had before.

I've also been listening to a lot of Petty lately, so maybe I'm projecting that onto this album, but I think he's arguably the main influence here in a way he never has been in the past, because Bruce was always there. If that makes sense.

Diving in...the first track sounds like Velvet Revolver. This is not a good thing. Stay tuned.

Oof.

Just finished my third listen. I'm absolutely head over heels. A lot of this record does indeed bear close resemblance to Elsie ("Stray Paper", "Underneath The Ground", "Selected Poems", "Ain't That A Shame") but that's exactly the style I've wanted Fallon to continue with since I first heard that record. It's a BIG return to form, imo. Handwritten wasn't "bad", but I feel like it completely lacked personality; something they had in spades before that. The lyrics this time around are a lot better too.

I don't agree that there's no Bruce influence at all. The first thing I thought of when I heard the title track was "not gonna shake those Boss comparisons like this", at least until the chorus kicked in. I hear it in "Break Your Heart" and "Dark Places" too.

I can't make a definitive call yet, but this could rival The '59 Sound as their best. Maybe I'm just excited. Time will tell, I guess.

I'll again disagree with the "return to form" description, as I did when someone mentioned that last week in the official thread. This band never broke form at all. This album is also far more in the vein of Handwritten than anything that came before, imo, and that includes lyrically.

As someone who listens to Bruce every day, I'd only really agree on "Dark Places." "Get Hurt" sounds nothing like any Springsteen song I've ever heard, and "Break Your Heart" is so much more Petty than Bruce that I don't hear any Boss there either. "Dark Places," as a throwback to T59S, is the closest.

I guess I've always preferred Petty over Springsteen (even though I really like both.) so this album hits the spot for me. The review was written well, but it felt nit-picky at times. No slight to you, I'm just more of "appreciate the songs for what they are right now and don't compare them to everything else in their discog" type of person.

None the less, I really love this album! ROCK AND ROLL IS ALIVE AND WELL.

I don't think I was nit-picking at all, honestly. I've listened to this album every day, at least once, for three weeks now, and while I do love and do appreciate the songs for what they are, I think there are some very specific flaws with the album that keep it from being in the 9-10 range. Also, I think the second Fallon said this was completely different than everything the band had done before, he doomed himself to those kinds of comparisons.
07:33 AM on 08/05/14
SpyKi
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Thought I'd give this band one more try but they're just not for me at all. That was probably the least I've enjoyed an album this year.
07:36 AM on 08/05/14
Craig Manning
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Brian has always stated a major Tom Petty influence so I don't get this line "Replacing Springsteen here are Fallon’s other heroes: Vedder, Cobain, and Petty, chief among them" in the review. They covered Tom Petty on Handwritten "You Got Lucky" and "Refugee" on the itunes sessions. There is a reference to Petty on '59 Sound. They used to cover American Girl live.

Brian has lots of influences and has always talked about them fondly. Everyone just jumps to Springsteen because of the local connection, guest appearances, and friendship. He's been on stage with Eddie Vedder before and they recorded a State of Love Trust along time ago. Plus a Cobain/Nirvana cover on Handwritten. It's probably more willingness to try what some influences have done instead of trying to be them in a cover.

This album is sounding awesome though. Love this band.

Petty references are all over The 59 Sound, and he's definitely always been there, I'll agree with you there. But the band definitely never sounded anything like Pearl Jam or Nirvana until the last record. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Fallon is emphasizing those influences more here than he ever has, and he's doing it by and large because he's trying to move away from the Springsteen comparisons, which I don't think are here at all, or at least not much. I wasn't trying to say that he's never had those influences before, more that they've never manifested themselves in such a clear way.

I'm really digging this. It feels less cohesive definitely, and I'm going to play around with re-sequencing (for my first time, so pray for me) but I think that, if I could fix the tracklisting, this would go down as the record I have wanted from them since I found the band a few years ago.
Great job with your review as well, by the way.

I'm not going to change the order, I don't think. I kind of like how disjointed it is. But there's something about it that is certainly less "complete" than their last few, hence the lower score.

Unpopular opinion possibly: I think "Break Your Heart" is better than "National Anthem". I think Tom Petty fans will agree

I'm beginning to agree.
07:44 AM on 08/05/14
Craig Manning
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Thought I'd give this band one more try but they're just not for me at all. That was probably the least I've enjoyed an album this year.
Did you listen to the Black Keys record? Haha
07:46 AM on 08/05/14
SpyKi
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Did you listen to the Black Keys record? Haha
I didn't, ha. From what I've heard about it I doubt I will.

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