Unless you’ve been living under the cliched rock, you know there’s been a surge of bands that generally self-identify as pop-punk (or some derivative thereof) who feature lyrics that center around insecurity, girls, and existential crises. The Gaslight Anthem’s latest album, Get Hurt, is basically a grown-up version of that. Throughout the mid-tempo tracks, lead singer Brian Fallon growls and hollers about heartbreak, heaven, and more heartbreak.
Right off the bat, the band get off to a bad start. The album’s first track “Stay Vicious” can be best described by something my girlfriend asked about the song while it was playing: “Is that Nickelback?” Heavily distorted guitars give way to Fallon’s gravel-throat, Chad Kroeger- and/or Scott Stapp-esque vocals. It leaves a bad taste in the aural mouth, and it’s not even consistent. It ends with a quasi-anthemic “la la la” section with keyboards and gentle guitars that totally oppose the song’s garbage-can vibe. The next track, “1,000 Years,” is certainly more tolerable, but it’s another stark genre change. The band have garnered comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, and that’s evident here. The title track then offers what might be a ballad, showing the band’s softer side. The main problem with these three songs is their lack of cohesion and inability to describe the record as a whole.
With the exception of the first three tracks, Get Hurt is comprised of energetic, punk-inspired music that seems to draw out both working-man angst and nostalgia. The songs range from calm to jumpy, showcasing the band’s ability to traverse the musical landscape. Overall, the shuffling-slash-rocking tracks are similar, with Fallon singing about apathy, confusion, and related emotions. The straightforward “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” draws some life from a fifties sound mixed with the classic rock of the seventies. The guitar riff is catchy, and Fallon’s line “shimmy shimmy shake baby right in my bloodstream” adds some midcentury authenticity if you ignore the last five words. “Stray Paper” might be the best track, with delicate guitars and stadium-worthy verses that intensely cop Springsteen. It’s also the most versatile and connected song, composed smartly and deliberately.
Back to the lyrics; if you’re wondering, a little time spent on the album’s Wikipedia page will reveal that Fallon recently divorced his wife of ten years, so the I’m-doing-drugs-and-questioning-life-while-being-angry lyrics are justified. However, this album is raw emotion, and there’s nothing but edge. Some will like that, but some won’t. It makes you wonder how Fallon will feel in a few years when he might see the tragic event in a new light. For now, he comes off as angry and confused, but that doesn’t make for good music. Indeed, he fully deserves to express himself and purge his demons, dealing with things the only way he knows how, and this album will get some through tough times. When it’s all said and done, the album itself lacks, relying mostly on the shock factor of balls-out rock rather than artful musicianship.