I first discovered The Gaslight Anthem in 2010 after hearing a story about them and their then latest album American Slang on NPR. I instantly feel in love with the band and gobbled up anything of theirs that I could get my hands on. In 2011 Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon released Elsie with his side project The Horrible Crowes. The record was a big departure from Fallon’s other work. He stated at the time that while he was greatly influenced by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and
Jam (both clearly visible in The Gaslight Anthem’s music), he was also
influenced by the likes of Tom Waits and The Afghan Whigs. It’s the later influences that drove the
music of The Horrible Crowes.
At its core, Elsie is a gospel record. A dark, moody and brooding gospel record, but a gospel record nonetheless. The songs on Elsie deal with spirituality, heartache, relationships, family, and the raw emotions that people feel during times of strife and struggle. This isn’t a record that grabs you with its big hooks and sing-a-long choruses like The ’59 Sound or Handwritten; it’s a record that is subtle and understated and complex and that is probably why it has taken a few years for me to really get it. Some records you get from the first listen and some take time to really sink in; Elsie is certainly the latter for me. Listening to the record now, I can appreciate its depth and subtlety.
If one goes into Elsie expecting anything remotely close to a Gaslight Anthem record, you will leave disappointed, but that is actually one of its biggest strengths. The Horrible Crowes is a distinctly different animal; one that draws on darker emotions and spirituality in a direct and powerful way. Brian Fallon has proven to be one of his generation’s great and dynamic voices and Elsie is a prime example of his intensity and diversity.