The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten: A Cathartic Rock Masterclass.
When an album impacts your mind and when it burrows deep into your consciousness, you know you are onto something special. Handwritten by American rockers The Gaslight Anthem is that record, that opus commanding you to listen to those brazen guitars and wonderful vocalisations by lead singer Brian Fallon. Fallon is a master of his craft, a true trailblazer who rightly should be acclaimed more for his musicianship and unparalleled talent. He sings with urgency and clarity, pushing the boundaries, alerting the senses, focusing on the bigger picture.
Handwritten is a special album because it gravitates the listener to the pain that Fallon and his bandmates feel. Sincere and chaotic it delivers fully; it blooms with character and punch, evocativeness, and soul. Not clunky musically, it is smooth on the mind, even if the subjects revel in depressive moments. And Fallon writes without a filter, he demands attention; he shrieks at the world; he knows shame and it frightens him. Handwritten is his metaphorical reach for hope.
Moments of terror exude here too. The unnerving words will shock listeners, not in a way where they will cascade like dominoes or be frozen in time, but they will feel caught up in the drama. Every song on Handwritten sparks immense truth and insecurities, it is not only a loud, raucous LP but one that echoes feelings of being misunderstood. Fallon triggers his rage step by step, never losing his mind, but looking for answers.
The album begins with 45. A song with one if the most endearing guitar sequences in memory. Fallon sings with authority, dazzling, and not keeping his feelings close to his chest. The musicality is joyous, and the band outdo themselves here. The title song Handwritten is spellbindingly immaculate. Fallon sings about crying to his favourite song, it is a solemn track, with loud, abrasive overtones. Here Comes My Man orders us to listen to the loud drumbeat, the chords, the sombre lyrics by a master in normal clothes. Fallon vocalises truth and despair under the weight of great instrumental relevance. Mae strikes sadness into the world. It is a ballad, born from insecurity, and it rings true. That backbeat is arresting, the lyrical significance is legitimate. A real song for the ages.
Handwritten has the lyrical ingenuity to take anyone’s breath away. Fallon writes with sheer intelligence and plays mighty chords; he sings songs built by inner turmoil and strife. It is a cathartic rock masterclass.
Author Note: Handwritten was released in 2012 and hit like a dream. This review has been written as a tribute to its significance and its perfect balance between rock and subtle notes.