A casual browse through any relatively successful band’s history will identify a defining moment when, for want of a better phrase, their time had come; when all the pieces fell into place and they truly revealed themselves as a major force. Some observers may have suspected The Gaslight Anthem had theirs when 2012’s Handwritten breached Top 10 charts across the globe, but that record’s achievements look likely to be dwarfed by the New Jersey quartet’s fifth album.
Get Hurt is gonna be massive, a collection of songs that will reach out far beyond the fan base they’ve built since debuting with Sink Or Swim in 2007 and enter a wider consciousness. In terms of career turning points, its acceptance by mainstream punterdom could be on a par with Kings Of Leon’s Only By The Night or R.E.M.’s Out Of Time – and you’d better get used to it, because this album is going to be everywhere for the next 12 months.
Not that Brian Fallon and chums have done anything radically different here; there’s no curious or out-of-place marks on the blueprint, nothing that might prompt purists to cry “sell out!”. The Gaslight Anthem continue to fashion solid, accessible guitar-based rock, but these 12 songs are the most fully realised and ‘complete’ examples of their powerful craft.
The spectre of their early champion and mentor Bruce Springsteen still hovers above them, most notably on the rueful and confessional Break Your Heart and the rallying cry of Red Violins. But The Boss’s producer of choice, Brendan O’Brien, has relinquished his seat behind the desk to Mike Crossley (Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg), who shepherds the band towards a more universal sound that embraces populism without sacrificing pertinence.
Clocking in at an economical 41 minutes, Get Hurt is a white-knuckle ride through rock’s riches that points to a magnificent future while saluting the past. The opening Stay Vicious employs the loud/quiet/loud melodic grunge of peak Nirvana, Underneath The Ground visits the brooding white-boy funk of the Chili Peppers and Helter Skeleton could be Tom Petty fronting a metal/power-pop hybrid.
A common bugbear among reviewers is the lack of time they get to listen to new material before deadlines loom large, but the dozen tracks here establish their place in the head and heart after only one or two plays. The allure and immediacy of these songs is remarkable, the stuff that translates into an instant classic.