There’s some music that you feel like you shouldn’t like, but do anyway despite yourself. It’s just too damn easy to like this kind of music. There’s no work involved to enjoy it, no contortions of taste; it just speaks to something inside of the soul.
The Gaslight Anthem creates that kind of music. Their songs are lyrical, heartfelt rock that are way, way better than they have any right to be. By which I mean that on first listen, they are too smooth, too easy for you to feel proud of liking them. Obscure, experimental indie music this is not. But there’s a quality to these songs that sort of sneaks up on you, a heart to them that welcomes the listener.
Part of the secret of TGS is the lyrics, colorful, intelligent poetry that stands up just as well without the music. In this sense, they remind me of an album like Bright Eyes’ At the Bottom of Everything, which also lends itself to being experienced as poetry as opposed to just as songs. I first realized that it was okay to like TGS when I heard lyrics like “We are the last of the jukebox Romeo’s” or “I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis” or “Boys will be boys and girls have those eyes that cut you to ribbons sometimes,” which perhaps do not sound so impressive cut out of context like this, but are beautiful slice-of-life observations in the music.
And the music itself speaks to the listener, quietly wrapping you in its gentle rhythmic guitar and drums and piano. Like I said, this is music easy to fall in love with. There’s a sort of melancholy to it, echoes of forsaken nighttime cities and long lonely train rides and childhood summer romance.
Dance music this is not. Nor will it impress anyone at your local hipster coffee shop. But as something to listen to on a drive or before you go to sleep at night or when you’re feeling sad and alone, it’s prefect. The Gaslight Anthem is the sort of band you can listen to for a very long time without quite realizing it except for a vague sensation of inner peace.