Unglued Reviews

Reviews of new release & back catalogue CDs, DVDs, graphic novels & more


Original release date: May 29th, 2007

The Gaslight Anthem - Sink Or Swim coverThis is a great, confident debut album that doesn’t put a foot wrong. On first listen, I was hooked even before the first song, Boomboxes And Dictionaries, was over, and the remaining eleven tracks didn’t let me down at all.

New Jersey four-piece The Gaslight Anthem blend anthemic punk rock spirit with Springsteen-influenced storytelling (together with a folk influence that recalls early Against Me!) to create a compelling, addictive whole. The warmth of frontman Brian Fallon’s gruff voice easily engages the listener on tracks like I Coulda Been A Contender, an evocative regret-tinged mid-tempo rocker, and Wooderson, which draws the strongest of the Springsteen comparisons. We Came To Dance is an overt blend of classicism and modernity, with folksy delivery interrupted by gang vocal lines about two-stepping punk kids, while the vital 1930 brings the punk influence to the foreground and The Navesink Banks in the middle of the album is a strong folk throwback, dominated by acoustic guitar and successfully replicating a traditional American folk lament.

I’da Called You Woody, Joe is a heartfelt tribute to the late great Joe Strummer, but despite referencing lyrics from Clash songs, its driving rock ‘n’ roll is more akin to The Mescaleros – and more like The Gaslight Anthem than either. Another salute, this time to Bob Dylan, can be found in Angry Johnny And The Radio, a halftime dirge that livens up considerably towards the end.

The unforgettable chorus of Drive makes for yet another stellar cut on an album of terrific songs, the relentlessly rocking We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner’s singalong outro is irresistible, and Woody Guthrie-like final number Red At Night (the acoustic counterpoint to earlier track Red In The Morning) makes for a memorable end to a truly wonderful album. I’m struggling to remember the last time I was so taken with an unheralded record from a band I’d never previously heard of.

Owen Heitmann

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