‘Boomboxes and Dictionaries’ by The Gaslight Anthem
From the album Sink or Swim (2007)
Late last week, The Gaslight Anthem announced that they were taking an indefinite hiatus in order for the members of the band to concentrate on other projects. This makes me real sad, and to eulogise this moment I’m throwing it way back to the first track from the band’s first album (the excellent Sink or Swim), ‘Boomboxes and Dictionaries’.
The song is an all-American punk rock classic, following in the vein of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (both of whom have connections with the band, through covers and gust appearances) and succeeding where bands such as The Killers (with Sam’s Town) and Kasabian (the Brit equivalent, Empire) often failed, with singer and guitarist Brian Fallon wearing his heart and the American flag on his sleeve, writing songs in which ‘the sun shine[s] off the hood of a Cadillac’. Even if you have no idea what New Jersey looks or looked like when Fallon and co were growing up, listening to The Gaslight Anthem’s songs paints a vivid picture of something very specific, homely, almost pastoral, for any listener and this is a truly exceptional quality for a songwriter. Fallon’s singing style also helps to convey his message; there is never any hint that he doesn’t mean what he his saying with 100% of his body and soul.
The Gaslight Anthem have appeared on the soundtrack to my life for many years now and there is a song or two, or seven from each of their albums that can instantly transport me back to a time and a place. I hope this isn’t the permanent end for the band that I look to for reassurance and introspection and who tell me ‘if you’re scared of the future tonight, just take it each hour one at a time.’