The Señor and The Queen plays like a concept quick shot about a guy and his desired gal. Calling to mind the dark tales of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band circa Darkness on the Edge of Town just as much as it does the punk energy of Hot Water Music and The Loved Ones, The Gaslight Anthem has expertly crafted four tasty tunes.
Each song is arranged just right. The title track kicks off the disc; it’s a great start, but it doesn’t rock as hard or as sweetly as track three, “Say I Won’t (Recognize).” Regardless, when frontman Brian Fallon slips into the role of the señor, it’s classy and fun all the way. Bruce had Rosalita; Fallon has Maria, and she pops up throughout the disc. “Señor and The Queen” and “Say I Won’t” find Fallon trying to woo her out on the dance floor. “Come on out Maria and lose the tragic/Come on out Maria and we”ll show you some magic,” he assures her on “Say I Won’t.” “We’re having a party, everybody’s swinging/Tonight won’t you come down out of your tower/Don’t make me dance all night alone.” “Are you dying to move,” he asks her on the title track, “Or are you dying to be the one moved?” With gnarly guitars and throaty croon, I don’t know how any lady could turn him down.
Tracks two and four take a more somber approach. When not “swinging like the end of the world,” Fallon likes to get down in a different way. On “Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?” he tells Maria “I never felt right and never fit in.” Yeah, he’s one of those James Dean bad types, but over drummer Benny Horrowitz’s post-punk dance beat, he sounds like an a-OK guy. Throw in a few “bop bop bop-bop-bah-dah-dah-dahs” for seasoning, and you’ve got a mighty fine number for you and your special someone.
The EP closes out with “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts,” a track more in keeping with the softer indie rock of The Good Life or The Weakerthans. In fact, Fallon has an eye for detail like The Good Life’s mastermind Tim Kasher. Both are equally expressive in their vocals and words. The song’s great reveal is that Fallon calls every girl he meets “Maria,” which makes the EP a lot more depressing. Still, it’s hard not to find hope in this song’s closing lines—“Someday I’ll buy you that house on Cookman/Sleep on the beach if we ain’t got a ride.” Fallon sounds weary and quiet compared to his delivery on the other songs, but that makes it sweeter in its understatement.
I don’t know if Maria is a real person. I don’t know if Fallon’s nickname is “the Señor,” although it should be because that would be awesome. But I do know that, like Kasher or Springsteen, Fallon sings about losers, romantics and misfits quite well. The Gaslight Anthem has a heck of a lot of heart, and at least four delicious new tunes for 2008. A second full-length is in the works for SideOneDummy, and if The Señor and The Queen is any indication, it’s going to rock my soul and my bum to the max.