It’s hard to gauge the context in which “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is being released. The Gaslight Anthem emerged long ago from the hazy underground scene that bore their first album Sink or Swim, and yet, as far as popular rock music goes, they aren’t in the same conversation as the Mumford‘s and the Coldplay‘s. The hype around their newly announced 5th album Get Hurt is more of a mellow, expectant buzz — and for good reason. On their 3rd and 4th albums, American Slang and Handwritten, they delivered new and engaging tracks but didn’t shake the boat as far as their success went. They produced strong albums in the way that a good band should. They were consistent. There was no mid-career crisis.
“Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is the next chapter in The Gaslight Anthem’s solidification as a career band. The song is immediately memorable, catchy but not sugar-coated, urgent but not frantic. It hinges on Brian Fallon’s assertions, as many of their defining tracks do. “You say I’m hopelessly devoted to misery / well I don’t want to be so devoted no more” and “Baby I was born on the 4th of July / exploding like a firework,” are the most resolutely delivered lines in the song, and are representative of the general attitude. Outside influences are visible to Fallon, but can’t direct him in his trajectory. The lyrics are melancholy to some extent, but the upbeat delivery puts an almost casual spin on them. Sure, Fallon talks about heaven, but in a theoretical sense. There are important themes at play, but they can be molded to all situations thanks to their relative open-endedness.
The style is one that The Gaslight Anthem have made reflexive over their career. “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is immediate, it’s relatable, and it’s not going to leave you scratching your head — but at the same time it’s one you know you’ll revisit when you need to think a little deeper.