The Gaslight Anthem’s The B-Sides is like the sand you scoured as a child for cool-looking rocks that occasionally cut you with a shard of sea glass instead. It holds little gems worth a listen. However, just like the gems are left behind at the end of a day at the beach, this album is ultimately of little consequence.
As evident in its aptly named title, The B-Sides serves as a compilation of live tracks, acoustic versions, covers, and unused studio cuts recorded by the band between 2008 and 2011.
The album starts off strong with “She Loves You.” Originally released on the 2010 album American Slang, this track is a sappy love song. In classic Gaslight Anthem fashion, lead singer Brian Fallon’s raw and emotionally shattering vocal chords give voice to emotions that are powerful yet vague when put into words.
Several of the acoustic covers that comprise the majority of the album cannot help but fall short of its strong start and the masterful cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice.” Particularly insignificant is the third track of the compilation, a live cover of Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust,” which adds little more to the original other than Fallon’s distinct sound at the foreground.
The album’s other acoustic renditions of past releases, such as “The ’59 Sound” and “Boxer” are small treats for diehard fans. The stripped-down guitar and largely vocal nature of these tracks bring out the emotionally heavy lyrics that are often convoluted and overlooked in the original punk rock versions. However, the sheer number of these acoustic versions, and how they are ordered within the album, ultimately make for a lack of variety and a shameful blending of the songs. It all comes together in one indistinguishable mess.
Avid fans of The Gaslight Anthem are sure to find The B-Sides bittersweet. At its best, this compilation serves as a nice snapshot of the band at a particular time and style. At its worst, it is easy to look at this compilation as an obvious effort of SideOneDummy Records to squeeze a little money out of the band’s past successes. When all is said and done, The B-Sides fails to get that coveted A.
Voice’s Choices: “She Loves You,” “Tumbling Dice”