10 Best Gaslight Anthem Songs
The Gaslight Anthem are an easier band than most to dismiss, as their six or so years of recording have not brought back drive-in theaters or malt shops or even led to a resurgence in popularity for 'The Outsiders.' Singer Brian Fallon sets his lyrics in another lifetime, but these Jersey dudes aren't just '50s-loving, Springsteen-aping nostalgia freaks. They're also your friends from high school that still lives on your street and comes by for the game -- 16 weeks a year. They're the brother that left town 10 years ago and never called or looked back. In their songs, they play the kinds of stereotypical, cliched, cinematic characters that make life good. They're about as romantic as music gets these days, and to mark the release of their brand-new singles collection, we're picking the 10 Best Gaslight Anthem Songs.
At No. 10 on our list of the Best Gaslight Anthem Songs is one that could literally be the group's anthem, 'National Anthem.' Wrap your head around that. Brian Fallon, a proud Jersey native, sounds just like his idol the Boss here, and that's probably the highest compliment you could bestow on him.
It might have been Pitchfork that quoted the line "I always dreamed of classic cars and movie screens" and wrote about how it's not a gimmick -- it's just who Brian Fallon is. And now five years later, it holds. Accuse him of being nostalgic or wearing his heart and influences on his sleeve, but Fallon is more dynamic and surprising a songwriter than he's given credit for.
No. 8 on the 10 Best Gaslight Anthem Songs list is probably the quietest tune in their catalog. Quoting an old movie in the title -- to the surprise of no one -- it's a song about the ones that got away and how they all still have a piece of Fallon's heart. It's simple and honest and sincere, and that's what the Gaslight Anthem do best.
Two heroes get mentioned in this title, Joe Strummer and Woody Guthrie. The song doesn't sound like either, and strangely enough, it calls to mind Morrissey, probably because of the "gang" reference in the chorus. Appearing on their first album, this one finds the Gaslight Anthem relaxed and up-tempo -- a combo they'd never do as well as on this LP.
Usually, the Gaslight Anthem honor the radio, particularly the car radio, but the LP is not far behind as a preferred methods of music listening. Mostly, the band celebrates music in any form, and and if that seems kind of paradoxical, since their career is making music, it may just be the right blend of simple and smart.
'Great Expectations,' no. 5 on our list of the 10 Best Gaslight Anthem Songs, has the distinction of being the first song many people hear from the group, as it leads off their best album, 'The '59 Sound.' The phrase "sad songs" shows up, as does nostalgia for an unexperienced past, and yet just enough universally relatable elements are present to make the song feel specific for everyone. "Everybody leaves, so why wouldn't you" is a dark line, but it feels true, even if it isn't.
The Gaslight Anthem are not a rock band that fears slowing down their music, or unplugging, or singing a sad song for the brokenhearted stuck on their bar stools. Their best of these, 'Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts,' is not about fashion, as the title might suggest, but rather the paradigm they model their lives and careers after. Filled with memories and love and music, the chorus tugs hard: "We sing with our heroes 33 rounds per minute / we ain't going home until the sun says we're finished / I'll love you forever if I ever loved at all, with wild heart / blue jeans and white t-shirts."
Rock 'n' roll songs about wanting to dance just don't happen anymore, and even throwing back to another era, Fallon can't possibly make wanting to dance and have fun seem cool. Still, there's an uninhibited, heart-on-his-sleeve aspect to the Gaslight Anthem, and as a result, this song not only makes sense -- it becomes a rallying cry. "Play a song that everyone knows," sings Fallon, himself a writer hoping to one day have those types of songs to his name. And he does.
The radio might be romanticized more than anything else in songs by Brian Fallon, and for good reason. As anyone who drives knows, the car stereo can practically become a character in your life story. It talks to you when you would be alone with your thoughts, and it gives you time and space to get lost in memories. Fallon likes the "sad, sad songs." Most songwriters would agree, but few sum up the sentiment with the right blend of reverence and cool.
No. 1 on our list of the 10 Best Gaslight Anthem Songs, 'Miles Davis & The Cool," paints Brian Fallon as a historian who's terminally nostalgic. The themes are as classic as it gets: fading youth, reconciliation, longing, memory. But, the sentiment is as crushing as it has ever been, as you believe every word coming from Fallon. His hurt is our hurt, and the song is timeless because of it.