Brian Fallon has been writing songs about heartbreak all his life. So what makes this collection different? The clues are in the lyrics. Gone are the yearning odes to ‘Maria,’ who one suspects was an amalgamation of teenage romances, and there’s scarcely a proper noun in sight. Having just come through a gruelling divorce from his wife of ten years, Fallon’s wounds are raw and fresh “I have pills for this, and tabs for that and something that used to resemble a soul”.
Sonically, this is the band’s most evolved record yet. Producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys and The 1975) takes their sound to new places; a grungey thrash on opener ‘Stay Vicious’ and later guitars chime like the blink of a radar screen on ‘Get Hurt’. The songwriting itself has more in common with Fallon’s overlooked Horrible Crowes side-project, with a dark blues creeping into the chugging rock backbone honed on 2012’s ‘Handwritten’.
‘Get Hurt’ is not an album written to sell millions; the band have said this was an itch they needed to scratch, never more evident than in the catharsis of the lyrics. On ‘Underneath the Ground,’ Fallon fantasises about his own death in harrowing detail, “Would you spit and hiss and curse my name, and embarrass me to the other graves?” Fair-weather fans may lose interest around the 40 minute mark, but there’s a great sense of reward to be found as the band burst through the other side on the euphoric closer ‘Dark Places’.
In pulling away from constant and irksome comparisons to their earliest influences, The Gaslight Anthem have created a biting album that lays bare the reality of the dissolution of a long term relationship in chilling detail. It won’t be getting any spins by Fearne Cotton on Radio 1, but in the darkest nights these songs could well save a soul or two.