The Gaslight Anthem aren't the first band to hold up New Jersey's ultra-suburbanism with pop-punk pride.
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.