Two seminal occurrences in Brian Fallon’s early life were hearing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run when he was 9 years old and seeing The Afghan Whigs not long after. Although the New Jersey native didn’t quite yet have the tools to channel those two events in a creative fashion, they stayed buried in his psyche until forming a succession of transient teenage bands that ultimately led to Gaslight Anthem in 2005. From the outset, Fallon has endeavored to translate his love of Springsteen’s epic Rock anthems in the more compact style of Punk troubadours like Paul Westerberg, coming up with a singular Punk/Rock hybrid in the process.
On American Slang, Gaslight Anthem’s third full-length album, Fallon and the band (guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine, drummer Benny Horowitz) expand on the sound and scope of its first two releases, 2007’s Sink or Swim and 2008’s The ’59 Sound. There are still plenty of Springsteen-fronting-the-Replacements moments here — the anthemic ring of the title track, the relentless Punk/Pop Clash crash of “Stay Lucky — but the Anthem push its envelope into new and completely appropriate areas on American Slang.
“Bring It On” has the scuffed Rock classicism that Ian Hunter has perfected (which ultimately triangulates Fallon’s fandom with both Hunter’s and Springsteen’s love of Bob Dylan), while “The Diamond Church Street Choir” revisits the Celtic Soul/Pop that Van Morrison championed three decades ago and “Orphans” blasts out of the speakers like a Boss tribute featuring Ryan Adams and the Dropkick Murphys.
Even though a lot of sonic reference points rise naturally to the surface with Gaslight Anthem, it’s the band’s brilliance at folding all of those touchstones into its own unique take that ultimately distinguishes the band from its influences and its Punk peers.