“I came to get hurt/Might as well do your worst to me.”

~Get Hurt 
The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt

Hearing this song tonight, alone in a hazy July, I don’t think The Gaslight Anthem will let me down. The first track I heard off their much-anticipated next album is a good song but it had me apprehensive. It felt a little heavy-handed, like maybe they hadn’t progressed much and instead stuck in their comfort zone by pushing the raucous guitars and lyrical tropes that define them without adding much else. But this, the title track, this is slow-burn and frightful, this is dark and wounded and perfectly Gaslight….and it made me realize, I’m glad they’ve stuck to their sound.

The echoing backing harmonies, the steady drum beat, hint of keys and Brian Fallon’s always on point bluesy-rock paint the nights of loneliness and need just the way tracks like “When We Were Young” and “Mae” do, but with a fuller soundscape. I love how settled it feels, how it sits in this slow tempo before building to the same hurt-filled chorus hook that “Handwritten” lives and dies by. I’m encouraged by the layers, the in-between transitions and attention to detail in the guitar licks and vocals, and that same familiar feeling of hurt – and the way that it closes, too soon and without satisfying resolve, that sounds like getting hurt to me.

Often with bands we’ve loved for years, it’s easy to get disappointed when they don’t recreate our favorite albums, when there’s so much more of that original feeling and connection you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s because the band grew in a direction that doesn’t fit your taste. Or,you realize that original connection was more subjective, colored by the lens of your life and times more than what this band with all about. On the flip side, sometimes you get bored if it sounds too much the same, if it brings the style but not that spark of newness that made it so compelling in the first place. But Gaslight, since I found them in the summer of 2010, has been in a constant in my post-college years through several of their albums, and I’ve loved that they’ve retained so much of the intensity and authenticity that drew me in.

I’ll never forget that concert in the fall of 2013, when they came on stage to a roaring crowd in DC’s 9:30 Club and launched into the opening bars of “Mae,” my favorite track off “Handwritten,” killed it, and closed it with a massive insignia scrim dropping at the back of the stage as the final chords rang out. That show solidified what I knew – this band is powerful together, skilled and sound, and they’re not going anywhere. Their songs, and their words, will continue to fill in the nights for me, the nights spent ruminating and wondering.