From the opening of "45" you know you're not in for any surprises with Handwritten. Gaslight Anthem do one thing and they do it well. You can count on a reliable guitar-driven rock record, with a touch of the roll for good measure.
The dirty, rough-edged rock permeates the record. It blazes throughout the fuel-injected title track. On "Mulholland Drive" it takes the form of a soaring-yet-grimy working man's guitar line.
The 'oh sha la la' refrain of "Here Comes My Man" shows a nod to pop rock. So too does the frenetic "Howl", a track that tries but just can't outrun its hooks.
Some of the rockers ("Keepsake", "Desire", "Too Much Blood") tend to blend together for lack of a defining characteristic. The only real miss is "Mae". It's a song that shows the potential to smolder, but instead melts away into a pool of cheese.
The album wraps up on a more introspective note with the subdued "National Anthem".
Sure Gaslight Anthem don't break any new ground, and the record may not even be them at their best. However, Handwritten is a pretty darn good rock and roll album.
Best tracks: "Here Comes My Man", "Howl"
Track listing for Handwritten:
- Here Comes My Man
- Mulholland Drive
- Too Much Blood
- Biloxi Parish
- National Anthem