If comparing The Gaslight Anthem to Bruce Springsteen is still a thing, it’s time for it to stop. Whereas previously the New Jersey quartet had stuck to their chosen sound of The Boss’s heartland rock stapled to their soulful punk backbone, on Get Hurt, the band’s fifth full length, they’ve more or less done away with their tried and tested formula, and have instead opted for a fusion of a menagerie of today’s arena-conquering titans (bits of Nickelback, Foo Fighters and even a pinch of Bon Jovi) in an attempt to create the biggest stadium rock sound possible. And while often bands taking uncharted routes and branching out to explore new influences would usually be wholeheartedly endorsed, the product of such a practice on Get Hurt is patchy at best.
The album opens with Stay Vicious, a song that is, without sugar-coating it, one of the worst songs the band have written to date. Murky grungy guitars make way for indie-ish choruses before an awfully hackneyed hair metal solo materialises midway through. Thankfully the album’s nadir never drops below this point, but Get Hurt isn’t without its fair share of disappointments. The beige puddle of Red Violins, Selected Poems and Ain’t That A Shame in the album’s latter half are completely forgettable inclusions as their repetitive instrumentation plods along, while Underneath The Ground simply slithers by, completely devoid of purpose or passion, something that has never been an issue for The Gaslight Anthem in the past. There isn’t a complete dearth of highlights amongst the excessive amounts of filler, but these are few and far between. 1,000 Years is the closest glimpse of what the band formerly was to be found on these twelve tracks, while the balladic, Killers-esque title track is by far the strongest track on offer, adopting a newfound use of piano and synths to create a rich, full sound. Meanwhile, the acoustic Break Your Heart proves that the band have lost none of their knack for creating an unplugged ballad, as previously demonstrated on the stunning National Anthem, the closing track of their last album, 2012’s Handwritten. Frontman Brian Fallon’s lyrics and vocals are as strong as they’ve ever been as well, the former’s use of metaphor resulting in ever-poignant soliloquies that he has made his own art form, while the latter showcases his impressive ability to shift between a tired burr and a life-affirming rally cry with consummate ease. Unfortunately, it’s the muddy new direction of their instrumental section that presents the album’s positives from really shining, making the whole ordeal seem mediocre above than anything else.