The Gaslight Anthem


Rich Mahogany Recordings/Thirty Tigers

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The Gaslight Anthem release comeback album History Books - out now

Like  so many of the most essential rock bands, The Gaslight Anthem have a  rare gift for finding glory in the inescapable pain of being alive. On  their new album History Books—their first new music in over nine  years—the New Jersey-bred four-piece bring their soulful breed of punk  to ten thrilling songs exploring everything from mortality to mental  illness to the more precarious dimensions of human connection. In the  tradition of their seminal sophomore album The ’59 Sound, The Gaslight  Anthem’s sixth full-length ultimately achieves of the tremendous feat of  hitting every raw nerve while endlessly inspiring wildly triumphant  singing-along.

“A lot of this record is questioning all the bad stuff we see in the  world and the difficult things we go through in life, and asking how to  deal with it,” says vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon, whose bandmates  include drummer Benny Horowitz, bassist Alex Levine, and lead guitarist  Alex Rosamilia. “I think the answer is that we’re all in this together  and that somehow makes it okay, even when it’s anything but easy. The  main message of the album is empathy.”

The first release from their own Rich Mahogany Recordings (a label  distributed via Thirty Tigers), History Books finds The Gaslight Anthem  working with acclaimed producer/engineer Peter Katis (The National,  Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie) and recording at his Bridgeport, CT-based  Tarquin Studios. “We didn’t have any interest in reinventing what The  Gaslight Anthem sounds like,” Fallon reveals. “We wanted to stay true to  ourselves but also let Peter do what he does best, which is to make  things sound beautiful and sad and fun and exciting all at the same  time.” Featuring a guest appearance from longtime Gaslight Anthem  champion Bruce Springsteen, History Books matches its unfussy yet  gracefully crafted sound with the force-of-nature energy that’s defined  the band since getting their start playing basement shows back in the  mid-aughts. “None of us wanted to make a very somber or serious record  showing how much we’ve matured,” says Fallon. “We’ve all changed and  grown and learned so much, but the overall mood was a feeling of  excitement to be back together and making music that means something to  us.”

The follow-up to 2014’s Get Hurt, History Books takes its title from a  heavy-hearted track about the power in letting go of what no longer  serves you. “I think forgiveness is so important on so many levels, but  I’ve learned that in some cases you need to cut ties with the people  who’ve done you harm,” says Fallon. Rooted in lyrics that perfectly  encapsulate Fallon’s penchant for gorgeously lived-in poetry (e.g.,  “Nights of smoke and dirty jokes/Darkened rooms with lonely ghosts/They  were beautiful some time ago/But time keeps rollin’ us on”), “History  Books” also echoes the album’s themes of transience and transcendence.  “In some ways each song is a history book—they each tell a story of the  past, and all the things that we’ve left behind,” Fallon points out.

Building a formidable velocity right from its first seconds, History  Books opens on the soaring melancholy of “Spider Bites”—an exhilarating  collision of pounding rhythms, blistering riffs, lush piano melodies,  and lyrics that cut right to the heart (“We circle ‘round the sun until  someday we won’t….And I’ll love you forever ‘til the day that I don’t”).  “That song came together at a time when so many bad things were  happening at once, starting from that first line: ‘My teeth are  crumbling structures,’” Fallon recalls. “It’s about trying to cope in  those moments when it feels like everything’s going wrong.” Penned in a  more serene state of mind, “Autumn” drifts into a contemplative mood as  The Gaslight Anthem share a deeply felt meditation on impermanence, set  against a lovely backdrop of luminous harmonies and oceanic guitar work.  “I wrote that song on a really beautiful fall day, looking out the  window and thinking, ‘How many days like this do we get to see?’” says  Fallon. “So much of life is just trying to get by, but every now and  then you have those moments where you can really feel grateful for the  small things.”

The first song penned for History Books, “Positive Charge” unfolds in  thrashing drumbeats and squalls of distorted guitar, a potent contrast  to Fallon’s tender recounting of his struggles with mental health. “One  of the changes that happened for me since the last album is going to see  a psychiatrist, after years of feeling like an alien because everyday  life felt so hard for me,” he says. “At the end of the song when I say,  ‘How I’ve missed you, and it’s good to be alive,’ that’s me talking to  myself—but it’s also talking to the band and our audience and everyone.”  Another song capturing the emotional ruin of depression, “Michigan,  1975” takes on a dreamy desperation as The Gaslight Anthem deliver a  darkly charged piece of storytelling inspired by Jeffrey Eugenides’ 1993  novel The Virgin Suicides. And on “Little Fires,” History Books offers  up three and a half minutes of pure punk bombast graced with guest  vocals from PUP frontman Stefan Babcock. “‘Little Fires’ is like the  opposite end of the spectrum from the frustration you feel in ‘History  Books,’” says Fallon. “It’s an empowerment song, about refusing to play  along with the kind of people who always seem to be throwing a grenade  into the room for no particular reason.”

With its tracklist also including the sweetly subdued “Empires” and the sublimely heavy “I Live In The Room Above Her,” History Books wholly  embodies the life-affirming emotionality that’s made The Gaslight Anthem  so beloved over the years. “Making this album clarified that we want to  keep doing what we’ve always done—because no one else can do it in  quite the same way, and that’s something I’ve started to become very  proud of,” says Fallon. “At the end of the day it’s just rock-and-roll  music, but I really do believe it can have a positive impact on people’s  lives. I think there’s so much beauty and magic in that.”