The Gaslight Anthem - The Backseat
Hugh Worskett 23/09/2009
The Gaslight Anthem have had quite a year, lauded by the press and serenaded (literally) by Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury. Their sound picks a course through Springsteen via the Killers whilst retaining a punk ethic reminiscent of Green Day. It is hardly surprising then that 'The Backseat' is designed for a mass sing-along and name-checks the now wearying ensemble cast of The Failed American Dream in the lyrics.
The main protagonist of 'The Backseat' is well-known lad-about-town, star-of-every-socially-conscious-piece-of-American-song (ever), Mr The Disenchantment Lane [Hold for applause, applause, fade out]. 'In the disenchantment lane, the ideal angels twist and turn and ask forgiveness for future mistake', Brian Fallon sings. It seems strange then, given The Gaslight Anthem's apparent desire to document America's social problems, that they should use the song's hook to focus on such a niche and unimportant matter as leg room: 'And in the backseat we're just trying to find some room for our knees'. A small commodity but one they obviously feel entitled to, despite it presumably being bottom of the list of things wrong with the 'burned out cars' they are driving. How's the upholstery? Charred?
“But what if”, I hear you say, “what if this 'backseat' is a metaphor for the forgotten American lower classes and the lack of leg room symbolises the difficulty people have finding a place within society?” “Go away,” I say. “Stop ruining my review with your clever analyses.”
Whatever its pretensions, 'The Backseat' never quite achieves the level of profundity it strives for simply because it relies too heavily on a stockpile of clichés used by others countless times before. It is enjoyable enough and pushes all the right buttons melodically but the lack of a fresh perspective on old subject matter results in an ultimately unmemorable and unfulfilling song.