The Gaslight Anthem's transformation is so complete that the first half of the new album, "Get Hurt" (Island), sounds like it came from an entirely different band.
The New Jersey quartet, led by Brian Fallon, built their major-label reputation on revved-up, Springsteen-drenched indie-rock anthems, with Fallon's voice often straining from emotional intensity.
But most of that is on hold on "Get Hurt." The opener, "Stay Vicious," blends heavy metal guitar riffs and stomping verses, though Fallon does try to console freaked-out fans singing, "I still love rock and roll and I still call somebody baby."
On "1000 Years," while Fallon channels a bit of The Hold Steady, the rest of the band seems to channel Pearl Jam, circa "Ten." There's a lot of early Pearl Jam reference points throughout "Get Hurt," as Fallon finds more of an Eddie Vedder-esque croon rather than his usual Springsteeny howl, especially on the title track.
"Stray Paper" seems to capture the latest version of Gaslight Anthem best, aided by producer Mike Crossey, best known for his work with bands that use a range of styles, like Arctic Monkeys and The 1975. It takes the usual cadences of Fallon's vocals and places them in new surroundings, the approach they use for the winding "Helter Skeleton" and the restrained, but ambitious "Underneath the Ground."
"Get Hurt" works as a transition album for Gaslight Anthem, a way to break out of a specific, successful style and spread their musical wings. They don't always soar, but they will soon.
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Stretching their sound, not straining Brian Fallon's voice.