After eight years and four studio albums, New Jersey-based rock band The Gaslight Anthem seemed to have paved its direction. Through their heavy guitars and rhythms and singer Brian Fallon’s guttural howls, the post-punk four-piece could summon nostalgia in both joyful and aching ways. But on The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth LP, Get Hurt, the band made a conscious effort to diversify its sound and identity. Except what’s left is an inconsistent collection of songs that lacks direction.
Musically, Get Hurt employs a number of diverse additives to Alex Rosamilia’s guitars, Alex Levine’s bass, Benny Horowitz’s percussion and Fallon’s vocals. For the first time ever, The Gaslight Anthem uses electronic instruments and digital technology to layer lines and muddle sounds. But then, in a totally different move, they team with beloved soul singer Sharon Jones on “Stray Paper” and channel the honky-tonk influence of their Nashville recording digs on the deluxe edition bonus track “Mama’s Boys.” Even the song titles of Get Hurt pay homage to other musical influences, as original lead single “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” is the name of a Delta blues song made famous by Muddy Waters, and the appropriately uptempo “Helter Skelton” toys with the title of The Beatles’ heaviest song.
But for what Get Hurt lacks in direction, it reconciles through the experiences that wrought it. Fallon’s recent divorce served as the impetus of and shadow looming over the record, as exemplified by “Break Your Heart”—a ballad with a subtle pain that marked 2013’s Hold You Up EP. And so Get Hurt seems like the album that The Gaslight Anthem had to make in 2014. It’s not the band’s greatest, most spirited or unifying; it’s not The ’59 Sound or American Slang. Rather, Get Hurt represents the exorcism and the catharsis that needed to transpire. And as The Gaslight Anthem found through this LP, and we listeners will soon, too, realize, there’s always acceptance after you get hurt.