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#45 The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

By Gary Wien

The Gaslight Anthem put a lot of pressure on themselves to make a great album after the breakthrough success of The ‘59 Sound,  a release that made them practically a household name for rock and roll fans throughout the world. The band was not only up to the task, but crafted an album in American Slang, which solidified their place as one of the hottest rock bands alive.

While The ‘59 Sound seemed to embrace rock and roll history and highlight the artists that had influenced the band, American Slang was something completely different.  Rather than pay homage to the past and repeat the formula that had worked so well in The ‘59 Sound, the band sought to make its own history.  They accomplished this by combining their Jersey roots and punk influences.  It’s as if Springsteen and The Clash recorded an album together at the height of the punk era.

American Slang also served notice that the band would never forget where it came from.  Lyrics continued to immortalize the streets of New Brunswick just as Springsteen did with the streets of Asbury Park.

Now the lights go low on the avenue

And the cars pass by in the rain

University boys and the girls fill the bars

While I’m just waiting on the light to change

And the steam heat pours

From the bodies on the floor

Down in the basement

Where the Jacknives play

For the hub city girls

In the ribbons and the curls

Who know the meaning of staying out late

They know the meaning of staying out

Very, very late

-- “The Diamond Church Street Choir”

Highlights include “American Slang,” “Stay Lucky,” “Bring It On,” and “The Diamond Church Street Choir.”

From the book Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists by Gary Wien

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.

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originally published: 01/28/2011



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