Having recently been signed to a major record label, the boys from New Jersey get a chance to play in the major league and prove their big-boy status with their fourth studio album to date. With the first single off the album, 45, having recently been touted by Radio One’s Zane Lowe as ‘The Hottest Record In The World’ upon its world premiere on 30th April (and when has Zane Lowe ever been prone to hyperbole?), things have been going pretty well for them so far.
Handwritten is a rock and roll storm. The energy on the record is tangible, defined by muscular punk-rock rhythms and Brian Fallon’s husky all-American raaaawk croak. The lyrics manage to be both personal: “Now I ain’t no devil but I’ve got things on my mind” and yet dripping with Springsteen-style Americana at the same time: “We work our fingers to the bone, and we wait for kingdom come, with the radio on”. There are even tales of doomed lovers in the night.
The album is a whirlwind of punk, hard rock and classic stadium rock, with a touch of sixties soul in a couple of songs, like Mulholland Drive, which reminds me of Rod Stewart’s days with the Faces, and there is Here Comes My Man, with the line “Oh sha-la-la, oh sha-la-la, listen honey here comes my man.”
It’s all-American – as American as an American hard gum. It’s got it all: echoes of Springsteen, the Ramones, Pearl Jam, and Kurt Cobain in Fallon’s husky wearied vocals (or Chad Kroeger, if you were feeling less generous). If you can deal with the odd cliché, and handle one or two guitar solos, then this album might be worth a listen. This band have been kicking around the background of the rock world for some time now; it will be interesting to see if 2012 will be the year they finally steal the limelight from their contemporaries.