Label: Thirty Tigers
Released: 27th October 2023
When The Gaslight Anthem called it quits in 2015, their epitaph was 2014’s solid, if somewhat underwhelming, ‘Get Hurt’. ‘History Books’ – appropriately enough, given its title – rewrites this little bit of the past, adding an excellent new chapter to the band’s story.
Indeed, it’s hard to think that it’s some nine years since their last record, but there’s no question the time away from the band has helped reinvigorate and inspire the return. Throughout, a sense of positivity radiates – the banging ‘Positive Charge’ is so electric it could rival Sellafield, while the excellent ‘Little Fires’ burns with the blue-collar passion that characterised much of the group’s early output.
These moments – and the likes of opening salvo ‘Spider Bites’ and ‘History Books’ – which features a star turn from The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen – are The Gaslight Anthem at their unmistakable, brusque best. Yet there’s a huge amount of depth to ‘History Books’, and in its quietest moments it sparkles like the best uncut gems.
‘Michigan, 1975’ – a mid-paced, sparse ballad – might be the finest song The Gaslight Anthem have written to date. Pensive and fraught, it’s a quiet rumination on love, relationships and ageing, and is endlessly deep and romantic, but tempered by strains of longing and regret. Equally, closer ‘A Lifetime of Preludes’ finds Brian Fallon and Co drifting into quiet and reflective alt-country while still retaining the sense of hopefulness that permeates the record.
‘History Books’ may have been an album borne out of the frustrations of the pandemic, but it possesses so much heart and soul that it far transcends the idea that this is just four guys reconvening to make music to fill the time. There’s a purpose and drive underpinning every moment, making it a more than fitting return for the punk rock lifers.