Always seeming to be tinkering with their sound, the Gaslight Anthem seek a nice balance between heart and drive on their fourth album, Handwritten. With a sound that splits the difference between the more punk-influenced The '59 Sound and the rootsy earnestness of American Slang, the album finds the band returning with a sound that feels altogether more complete than its other work. It feels like the Gaslight Anthem have reached some new evolutionary stage in their growth, bringing together all of their influences into a sound that's more distinctly theirs. While there are still the strong overtones of Springsteen and Social Distortion present on Handwritten, it feels like the Gaslight Anthem have figured out how to adapt those sonic touchstones into a sound that, though familiar, is their own. Changes aside, what feels more important with a group like the Gaslight Anthem are the things that are the same. Handwritten is still possessed of the same grit and earnestness that have become staple weapons in their musical arsenal. Songs like "'45'" and "Howl" easily evoke summertime in the heartland with their wistful warmth and bittersweetness. Though the cover of Nirvana's "Sliver," which is faithfully executed with Brian Fallon doing his best (and, most surprisingly, accurate) Cobain impression, feels a bit out of place on the album, as a whole Handwritten has all of the heart-on-rolled-up-sleeve passion that makes the Gaslight Anthem a band that is so easy to love and identify with.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney