Sean’s Modern Marvels: Sink Or Swim

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

When I first heard ‘Stay Vicious’ open The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album Get Hurt, I was thrilled. I thought this was their return to the more punk side of their spectrum. Brian Fallon’s voice was low, almost grungy. The music was more drawn out and heavy. It reminded me of the band’s debut release Sink Or Swim which idled in multiple genres, dipping their toes in punk, blues and good ol’ fashioned rock music.

We have all heard about The ’59 Sound by now. The blend of vintage bled into a more modern record with expert songwriting. But what about the album before that, what about the process of taking their ragged and rough skinned music and polishing it into what it is now, who remembers that? Sink Or Swim might be overlooked by people as the debut of a band who had not yet mastered the airwaves, but to me it was a medium between Against Me! punk mind and the Bruce Springsteen songwriting ability. 

Opening track ‘Boomboxes And Dictionaries’ kicks off the album with that dirty blues twang, creating an expectation for chord progressions to be the dominant factor in the music. Fallon’s voice barely mixes in with the loud instrumentals, but his lower pitch rises above the dissonance like a true punk recording. Hell, the guitars even sound a bit out of tune. But the focus quickly shifts into the poignant and often biting lyrics by Brian Fallon. His stories evoke memories of good times now turned sad by nostalgia or pure regret of guilt flow. 

Also in favor of this album is the turning of the weather. When I think of The Gaslight Anthem I imagine the windows down, on a road trip. The sun’s heat blistering the pavement as I am belting the lyrics as loud as I can. The universe tilting the perfect way as ‘I Coulda Been A Contender’ twists and pounds it’s way into my ears. 

Too a lot of people, The ’59 Sound outclassed Sink Or Swim. Even I think that, but without that first taste of desperately boasting influences without any fear on the latter, The Gaslight Anthem was able to swing and jam their way into my heart forever. They decided to swim and follow the path to where they are now, hosting large venues with thousands of fans singing along. Never forget their first album, and if you are not familiar, be sure to dive in and swim along.