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THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM IS GROWIN’ UP

One morning last spring, I was freezing my ass off on Cookman Ave., waiting for the perpetually late coast-to-city Academy bus, when a late model muscle car pulled up across the street. The man behind the wheel recognized me and rolled down the window, and a big sounding rock song came blaring out.

While pointing to my ears with visible breath, I asked the driver “Is that you?”

He immediately laughed, raised his eyebrow and with a sly smile and also visible breath said, “Maybe, ”  then turned the volume low and said what most neighborhood people say to each other, “Howyadoin’?”

“Going to the city. Freezin my ass off. That’s how I’m doin.’ And you?”

“Good. Excited man. See you around. Can’t wait ‘til you hear it.”

With that, his passenger walked up to his car and my bus pulled up. The muscle car honked, the driver waved and peeled out. I was smiling, not from the initial blast of the busses heat, but because I had a feeling that there was a new Gaslight Anthem record on the way.

Honestly, I didn’t think a new project from Gaslight Anthem was gonna happen.The Bangs Ave. punk-rock coconut telegraph that stretches to Asbury Lanes up to Red Bank and over Route 18 to New Brunswick was ripe with, “Brian’s going solo.  The band is taking a break, yada, yada, yada.”

I know after 20 years of covering bands that anything is possible and not to listen to anyone but the band members themselves. Even doing that is suspect, sometimes. But from body language it was hard not feel that something wasn’t right between them.

Now, in summer 2014, it’s all good in the hood. The coast-to-city Academy bus is even later than usual (now it’s the bus that’s freezing) and that muscle car blends into the increased traffic. But driver and Asbury Park-adopted local Brian Fallon and his band, The Gaslight Anthem, will unveil their fifth release Get Hurt to the world on Tuesday, August 12th.

(Vinyl copies will be available at independent record store’s such as Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank and Holdfast Records in Asbury Park.)

Gaslight_Anthem_0098_RE L-R: Alex Rosamilia, Alex Levine, Brian Fallon, Ben Horowitz. Photo by Drew Gurian

Bands struggle for years to get noticed. They play clubs, tour in cramped vans, and, if they’re lucky enough to get there, make the most of crappy festival time slots. That’s not even half the battle.

If you have the right management, booking agent, publicist, marketing team, label money, perfect timing AND the songs, then the bigger stages come.  But still, you must prove you belong. You have to prove that you can stay AND go bigger. For the Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt is the go big or go home chapter.

“I think we had to prove the band to ourselves again, ” admits Gaslight drummer Benny Horowitz. “In a way it’s almost like we had to fall in love again. You get to these points in music.  None of us have ever done this before, so any step will get us and our music to a new place. Every time we get to one of these places, we gotta figure out how to be there and how to adapt to it and be good at it.”

This is the place where Brian Fallon, Benny Horowitz and the two Adam’s, guitarist Rosamilla and bassist Levine, stood as a band before debarking Jersey for Nashville’s Blue Bird Studios to work with Irish producer Mike Crossley (Arctic Monkeys, The 1975).

Horowitz is an upfront dude. He calls it like he sees it, even their perceived rough patch that was relayed on the Jersey punk-rock coconut telegraph .“We hit a point in the last touring cycle where I don’t want to say we were spinning our wheels, because we always love playing our old songs, but there was a level of frustration, where we knew something’s gonna give. Something had to give.”

“You go a bunch of years touring and playing and doing this and that.  There are so many cooks in the kitchen and so many different elements that go into what you do. It’s not like we are writing songs and playing shows now. There’s about 100 different things going on and that can confuse things. I think we all felt that need to create something that would be important to us and everyone again. The way to do that is to do something you are not comfortable with.”

Sometimes doing something different, something you never even thought of, is needed to attain creative satisfaction. For a band, it’s an ego-less vehicle to move forward as a unit. That’s exactly what Gaslight Anthem did.

“We knew what we wanted to do and we knew it had to be different. I think this idea of chasing another “59 Sound” this many years later when people are in a different place in their lives, we thought that would be unnatural and would have been forced, ” said Horowitz.

“We wanted to make a move like that. I think there will be some that won’t be open to things shifting. They only wanna hear what they wanna hear and that’s fine. You can’t dictate to somebody what they want to listen to.”

Gaslight Anthem made an open, risky, edgy, a very in-the-now, post-punk piece of work. Not leaning on either yesterday’s words and chords or tomorrow’s beats and melodies, Get Hurt resonates “today.”

“The natural thing was to take some kinda step. We wanted the record to sound like it was recorded now. Not the early 90’s or mid 90’s.We wanted to take a left turn with what we were doing, but we didn’t want to alienate completely what we have done.”

They did it by dancing with those who got them here, that “signature” Gaslight sound. They also incorporated electronic instruments, higher vocal ranges and experimental guitar tones without being kooks or the Kings of Leon.

Horowitz chuckles at my mention of the Kings of Leon. But he sees a parallel between the two bands, both in wishful thinking and as a cautionary tale. “Yeah, but they made it, though, ” he laughed. “There’s a band that was in a very similar situation to us.  I think it was their fifth record that was huge for them. They were a well respected indie band before that. Then they had a huge, huge hit song. It’s a bizarre thing when the whole world is telling you, if you don’t do that again, it’s a disappointment. Part of me doesn’t want us to get too big, to have the level of expectation be a giant, smash song every single time you put out a record.”

Without apologies and in honor of the dearly departed, WHTG 106.3, Get Hurt is what modern rock at the Jersey Shore sounds like. Check that, it’s what maturity and change in the evolution of modern rock at the Jersey Shore sounds like.

“I think maturity can lead to change, but it doesn’t always precede change, ” says Brian Fallon. “Sometimes experimentation comes from desire to explore or simply from boredom. But for us, probably too much TV, “ he joked.

Change not for change’s sake, but when it’s change or lose what you love? It’s the go big or go home moment, as Fallon can attest.“You can never lose who you are.  No matter how much you change, you can never lose that core of what makes you you. If you’re honest with yourself, that core remains. You don’t find yourself lost in some genre you have no business being in – you create your own.”

See The Gaslight Anthem with special guest Jimmy Eat World on September 13, 2014 at PNC BANK ARTS CENTER-HOLMDEL. Tickets at ticketmaster.com

ROLLIN’ AND TUMBLIN’ VIDEO

GET HURT TEASER

Photo at top: L-R: Alex Rosamilia, Brian Fallon, Ben Horowitz, Alex Levine. Photo by Pamela Littky

A copy of this article originally appeared in triCityNews, 8/7/14

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