Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Gaslight Anthem: A Morbid Summer Jam

Nearly a year after its release, The Gaslight Anthem's The '59 Sound is still winning converts one at a time: Released with little fanfare, it took off at a pace that seems glacial amid so many instant phenomena. Often compared to Born to Run-era Bruce Springsteen — or maybe Jimmy Eat World performing Replacements songs — the New Jersey band sounds best on car radios during long drives, when gutty rock 'n' roll benefits most from an air of life-and-death profundity.

There's no shortage of life, death or profundity in "The '59 Sound," a mile-wide, top-down, hook-laden beast of a summer anthem. But as swollen and adrenaline-infused as it is, it's really a song about the last music each of us gets to hear in our lives — and, by extension, what it means to die young without having to "hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls."

It's that air of tragedy that makes "The '59 Sound" seem like more than a simple rock barn-burner: When Brian Fallon sings, "Ain't supposed to die on a Saturday night," he captures the way a summer night behind the wheel can positively burst with youthful abandon, ever-present danger and fragile promise. With almost overpowering intensity, the song does exactly the same.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)