“In 1988, Jon Bon Jovi was being interviewed by a reporter for Spin Magazine when he was asked if he was a fan of Bruce Springsteen. Bon Jovi replied ‘In New Jersey, if you don’t like Springsteen they raise your taxes.’ Listening to the Gaslight Anthem’s second full-length album The ‘59 Sound, it’s pretty clear that leader Brian Fallon doesn’t have to worry much about his tax bill in the Garden State. Hailing from New Brunswick, NJ, the Gaslight Anthem are that rare punk band that displays a strong and unmistakable Springsteen influence, and while Fallon’s vocal resemblance to the Boss is clearly coincidental (he has more than a bit of Bruce’s throaty gravity without the grit), the boys-and-girls-on-the-backstreets tone of his lyrics is not, especially when stray fragments from Springsteen’s lyrics pop up in Fallon’s songs.” MD On High Lonesome, the lyrics “at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet” are taken from Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” while Meet Me by the River’s Edge references Springsteen’s “No Surrender”, “Bobby Jean”, and “Racing in the Street”. WK The Patient Ferris Wheel uses the line “broken heroes” from the Boss’ “Born to Run” while Casanova, Baby! quotes “Born in the U.S.A.” (“dead man’s town”) and “Streets of Philadelphia” (“slip this skin”).
Lyrical references are not limited to the Boss, however. That latter song also references Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away,” Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “Quarter to Three,” and Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” Old White Lincoln quotes Bob Dylan’s “Talkin’ World War III Blues” (“I lit a cigarette on a parking meter”) and Tom Waits’ “Cold, Cold Ground” (“Baby darling, we will be, in the cold cold ground”) as well as a reference to Waits’ “Ol ’55.”
Dylan has two more songs referenced in Miles and the Cool – “Like a Rolling Stone” (“she never understood that it ain’t no good”) and “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.” That song also references Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” (“put on your diamond soled shoes”), Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful” and “I Can’t Turn Your Loose,” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison” (“your daddy’s aim is true”).
Tom Petty is referenced in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (“Yer So Bad”: “But not me, baby”) and the aforementioned “High Lonesome” (the line “there were southern accents on the radio” refers to Petty’s 1985 album and song of the same name). WK
That song also refers to the Counting Crows’ “Round Here” (“Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hands” and a variation of the line “a boy who looks like Elvis”). Bob Seger is quoted in Great Expecations (the line “it’s funny how the night moves/ humming a song from 1962” is from “Night Moves”).
All those lyrical references make one wonder about the Gaslight Anthem’s originality, but they are cleverly worked into the fabric of the songs and they successfully merge “their love of classic rock and soul icons Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding, and Tom Petty with their NJ punk roots to create a unique musical amalgam.” AZ Besides, when it comes to the Springsteen influence, even “if Fallon often comes off as a youthful Springsteen wannabe on The ‘59 Sound, he also happens to be pretty good at it; the force and sincerity of his songs roll over the occasional clunky spots, and the band brings this music across with a strength and urgency that suggests a heartland rock version of Social Distortion, with Alex Rosamila’s guitars and Benny Horowitz’s drumming brimming with fire and energy.” MD
“The Gaslight Anthem are far too good to be the New Millennium’s answer to John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band;” MD heck, eMusic named The ’59 Sound the best album of 2008, WK “but it’s all but impossible to listen to… [it] without being aware of this band’s key influence; even if they never grow out of their Springsteen obsession, they’re worth hearing, but it’s hard not to hope they’ll develop a stronger identity of their own with time...though they may want to warn their tax accountant before that happens.” MD