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The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The affin­ity I hold for the Gaslight Anthem has become dif­fi­cult to explain. The suc­cess in which Amer­i­can Slang has pro­pelled them to is as deserv­ing as I’ve ever seen

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The affin­ity I hold for the Gaslight Anthem has become dif­fi­cult to explain. The suc­cess in which Amer­i­can Slang has pro­pelled them to is as deserv­ing as I’ve ever seen– an hon­est to good­ness recep­tion fit­ting for a band so entrenched in the work­ing class ethos they have extolled since 2007’s Sink Or Swim. They spoke like Spring­steen, sang songs the way Ker­ouac wrote, and held strong the val­ues of Amer­i­can rock n’ roll. They were in every respect, the great Amer­i­can band for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion. Amer­i­can Slang is an album end­lessly rich, the alba­tross on which they will undoubt­edly fly to immea­sur­able heights with.

Yet, in a strange sense, the suc­cess and global recep­tion almost works against the fables they preach. How does one relate to liv­ing the hard life when you’re at Glas­ton­bury amongst a hun­dred thou­sand strong? Does singing about just get­ting by lose some of its roman­ti­cism when you’re on the cover of a glossy mag­a­zine? I never really under­stood why so many peo­ple were in uproar when Dylan first plugged in– maybe I still don’t, but I guess a small part of me com­pels the ques­tion of how an unruf­fled soul con­nects to some­thing almost solely writ­ten for some­one below the line. Is there a greater under­stand­ing of cer­tain artists and gen­res when all of which it cel­e­brates is very much part of who you are?

An edu­cated and well-versed music enthu­si­ast can cer­tainly under­stand and appre­ci­ate var­i­ous styles, gen­res, and his­to­ries and still remain dis­tant, but will they ever con­nect to the music the same way as some­one who lives a life par­al­lel to the artist does? I’m not sure, but I know that when I lis­ten to Born to Run, I have a far greater con­nec­tion to it than when I lis­ten to The Ris­ing. So when The Gaslight Anthem start play­ing sta­di­ums (a very good pos­si­bil­ity than I’m actu­ally not against at all), will the music mean the same as when I saw them play in front of 100 peo­ple in a small, bro­ken down back­packer hotel on a sweaty August night? Peo­ple who saw Spring­steen in 1972 and then saw him again post-1984 may have that answer.

In the June 2010 issue of Big Cheese Mag­a­zine, they describe Amer­i­can Slang as “the pain of a bro­ken heart, sal­va­tion from the radio and love by the lights of the bar. The record is a per­fect mar­riage of expert sto­ry­telling, superb musi­cian­ship and clas­sic melodies.” It is an apt assess­ment and among the many rea­sons why it is such a good album. Brian Fal­lon has traded in his crunchy riffs of The ’59 Sound for more bluesy gui­tar licks, drop­ping ref­er­ences to Maria while expand­ing his already excel­lent grasp of cre­at­ing per­fect blue col­lar rock songs. You will be hard pressed to find a writer who is able to inject his music with actual, down to earth sub­stance bet­ter than Fal­lon. It’s gen­uine, all of it. And my favorite part about it all is that no mat­ter where I’ve trav­eled and what I’ve seen, there is some intan­gi­ble con­nec­tion to the music that will res­onate dif­fer­ently for each and every lis­tener. It’s a murky the­ory I know, and I don’t have the vocab­u­lary to explain it, but with every lis­ten of the clos­ing “We Did It When We Were Young”, I am reminded of life up to this point and I am hit with end­less con­tem­pla­tion and reflec­tion. It’s not about whether or not they wrote this song with any such inten­tion, it’s just that it is pow­er­ful enough to do so.

Strangely, I feel less com­pelled to talk about the actual songs them­selves; there are many rock crit­ics and writ­ers who will do a far greater job at explain­ing or jus­ti­fy­ing the praise with con­nec­tions to Dylan, Strum­mer, Miles Davis, and of course, Spring­steen. They’ll tell you about the great lit­er­ary ref­er­ences, the homage to the great cities and trails, and the many emo­tional highs and lows as painted by the chord pro­gres­sions and melodies. But for me, it is the last­ing impres­sion and con­tin­ued con­nec­tion they’ve painted since I first heard them in 2007; that life’s great­est reward comes from an unfor­get­table jour­ney regard­less of the final chap­ter. It reminds me of the many great pages left to write, and that fill­ing them through your time here is the only rea­son why we should wake up every day. It does not res­onate emo­tion­ally (save the clos­ing track) as much as The ’59 Sound does, but it con­tin­ues to do the great­est thing a band/an album/a song can do for me. The past is part of who you are, the present reminds us of this, and the future will always be unwrit­ten. It is the only part of their music I hope they keep intact no mat­ter where they go and what they do.

(SideOneDummy Records)

Reviews

Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”

A glorious sound of a time gone by

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Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.

I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).

To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.

Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.

While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.

Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.

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