Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The '59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem

There’s a difference between what we want to believe and what we actually believe. As much as I would like to believe in the afterlife, in my heart I wonder.

Throughout the history of music artists have explored the nature of death trying to find comfort, solace and understanding of the greatest mystery of the human experience. Many songs about death have provided answers about the afterlife like “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.

While other songs like “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen explore the journey into the afterlife.

What’s unique about “The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem it doesn’t provide answers. It's about our questions, hopes and fears about the journey to the afterlife.

I discovered The Gaslight Anthem in a recent issue of Rolling Stone that featured the bad as one of their “40 Reasons To Get Excited About Music.” Rolling Stone called lead singer Brian Fallon “The Next Jersey Rock Hero.” There are many comparisons between Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem made in a complimentary way. Taking the passion, the storytelling and the depth of human emotion that Springsteen expresses in his music and adding a modern punk mentality has created a musical landscape that is both beautifully referential while surprisingly fresh.

The first verse starts pondering what music they will play when they “float into the ether.” There is a beautiful literary allusion to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, “I hope we don’t hear Marley’s chains before July” hoping that the Marley (the ghost of Christmas Past) won’t visit them at the end and tell them they have something to regret about life. This allusion is carried through to the last line of the verse stating that “the chains I’ve been hearing now for most of my life.”

The chorus is a series of questions asking someone who is yet to be identified what they heard when they died. Was it something comforting: “the ’59 sound”? Was it Marley coming to haunt them: “the rattling chains?” Was it something religious and revelatory: “the old gospel choir”? Or was it something comforting and personal: “your favorite song”? Even though this song tells a sad story, there is a celebratory tone in the chorus as the questions doesn’t so much focus on the negative possibilities of death but the positive ones.

In the second verse the “you” from the chorus is identified. It’s someone who the protagonist cares about who has died in a car crash. The narrator apologizes for not being the “spirit left your body.” Even though this is sad point, there are things that the singers holds onto in the assertion that he still knows “the song and the words and the name and the reasons."

The Gaslight Anthem proposes that maybe it’s not in the answers that we find meaning but rather in the questions. This process of wondering defines who we are in life and maybe it defines our journey into death. I have still have a lot of questions and maybe I’ll never stop wondering and “The ’59 Sound” shows us that this is something not to be feared but to celebrate.

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