More Than Mere B-Sides
A mere six years ago a little known band from New Jersey unleashed their brand of good old fashioned rock and roll, a brand that radiated with nostalgic nods back to times when things seemed easier, retelling stories of heart ache, of American cars and lives lived by the soundtracks of Tom Petty and Miles Davis and in doing so The Gaslight Anthem embraced all from the blue collar workers who their songs seemed directed at all the way up. Bursting with emotion that somehow seems to increase simply through the vocals of lead singer Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem's flame has continued to shine ever since and now, two more albums on and countless gigs later, the New Jersey quartet are releasing a collection of b-sides. For some bands this is merely a way to make a few easy quid with little work, mindlessly churning out acoustic tracks that sound so much like the original you wonder why bother but TGA aren't one of those bands. Sure, there are acoustic tracks here but with each one the band have shed new light onto established fan favourites, amazingly making them fresh and just as, if not better then the originals.
Hauntingly beautiful and breathtakingly moving, She Loves You is the perfect track to get things underway. Bristling with the heart felt emotion that has come to be expected from TGA, She Loves You tenderly explodes from the gentle soothing of Fallon's opening vocals to the climatic raptures of backing vocals and infectious beats that sums up the joy of TGA all in one song. From here on in the album is simply a showcase for TGA; from the reworking of Fake Problems, Songs For Teenagers that metamorphoses from a jaunty indie track about drugs into an almost love song that instills a swaying acoustic hint of blues, tinged with sadness and just a touch of hope, through to 'Once Upon A Time' where Fallon's exceptional lyrics come to the forefront. A brilliantly emotional dose of nostalgia, the track speaks to you regardless of your age as young love is reminisced about as Fallon sings of remembering "Marvin Gaye singing what's going on" and how Martin Luther King "...was a man babe who gave us a dream", expertly capturing a moment in history whilst the melodic magnificence of TGA combined with Fallon's passionate vocals to truly move even the hardest of hearts.
Of course the obligatory acoustic tracks are here, but as mentioned, these even take on a new lease of life. The Queen Of Lower Chelsea manages to gain a shiny new coat as the buoyancy of the original is swapped for a touch of mellow chill whilst Boxer loses the original bounce and urgency for a more sedate and reflective vibe which completely transforms the track, making both the original and b-side uniquely brilliant in their own right. Ultimately though it its the spine tingly reworking of American Slang that stands out as the emotional nostaglia of TGA is amplified with Fallon's vocals taking on a gruff edge that oozes pain to not only tug at your heart strings but instead to rip the whole organ still beating out of your chest whilst you beg to hear yet more;put simply, an acoustic b-side doesn't come much better then this.
Still though TGA aren't done and somehow do what many would deem impossible and improve a Rolling Stones track. Whilst the New Jersey band may not have veered too far from the foundations laid down by Mick and co. when they wrote Tumbling Dice, but TGA add yet more bounce to the track that injects vibrancy into every beat until that gentle foot tap you are trying desperately to conceal gives way to full blown idiotic dancing around the room - denial is pointless, just admit defeat and turn the volume up full blast as TGA encourage you to roll those dice one more time, after all, you know you want to!
Much more then a cash cow to milk the fans, this is a collection of b-sides that can hold their own against the originals with pride, add to that some new tracks and covers that manage to improve on the originals, and the New Jersey lads who too often are passed off as mini Springsteens, have an album to be proud of and if anything, dismissing it as a mere b-sides collection seems to do the tracks a disservice. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions, this is one album you'll want to have on repeat again and again.