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First Listen: The Gaslight Anthem, 'American Slang'

The true test of a Gaslight Anthem album can't -- or at least shouldn't -- take place while the listener is staring at a computer screen. The New Jersey-based band makes music for car stereos, plain and simple; its timeless, barreling rock 'n' roll anthems are all about conflating simple tropes (Saturday night, the open road) with disarmingly wise observations on life, death and youth. It's hardly a surprise that Bruce Springsteen has joined The Gaslight Anthem on stage, just as it's hardly a surprise that footage of the collaboration depicts singer Brian Fallon looking as if his heart is about to explode in a trillion joyful pieces.

Beneath the big, galloping fun of American Slang lies a unifying theme about the fleeting nature of youth. "Everybody used to call you Lucky when you were young," Fallon sings in the magnificent "Stay Lucky," taking all of 10 words to sum up a lifetime of compromise and faded hope. American Slang keeps coming back to lost vitality; the album might as well have been titled Hey, Remember When You Were Young? Yeah, That Was a While Ago. As such, it's a perfect companion for those who might be on the verge of, say, their 20th high-school reunion this summer. If you are, it'll give you a perfect excuse to rent a muscle car for the occasion, blast these bold anthems of ambivalence in the parking lot, and revel in what little youth you've got left.

American Slang will stream here in its entirety until its release on June 15. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

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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.)
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