The Gaslight Anthem aren’t the first band to hold up New Jersey’s ultra-suburbanism with pop-punk pride. The group, which has been around since 2005, has just released its debut album Sink or Swim—and the thing is a sort of love letter to the state, dressed in the guise of messy and not-too-inventive punk rock. This kind of band most likely has passionate fans—locals, who get the references, who have grown familiar to these reiterations of familiar melody—but it’s difficult to persuade the rest of us of the necessity of hearing The Gaslight Anthem, really. The depressed, baritone punk mix recalls Alkaline Trio, though this group’s rawer; the mix is amateurish and quite top-heavy, purposefully demo-esque. A bit like early Pennywise. Tunes like “Wooderson” show a band that knows how to write sunny punk melody just fine, and perhaps with a bit more passion than most of the teenage garage groups—but is that enough these days? Occasionally, as on “We Came to Dance”, the band hits on a nice twist: vocalist Brian Fallon goes slightly faster then that instruments, as if he’s dragging them along. For a moment, they even manage to find nostalgia in a Central New Jersey sunset.
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