Album Review: Sleepwalkers by Brian Fallon

Posted by Bianca on Friday Feb 9, 2018 Under Album Review

Review by Rob Johnson

The Gaslight Anthem were one of those rare bands that were truly mine. Perennially late to the party, it’s not often that I get into an act early enough to excitedly introduce them to all my friends (whether they want me to or not). Brian Fallon and his band of merry man were one such artist. After stumbling across their incendiary debut Sink or Swim, The Gaslight Anthem soundtracked every party, every poker evening and every dark night of the soul. However, somewhere between their 2014 album Get Hurt and Fallon’s first solo effort Painkillers I lost them somehow. This is not a reflection on the music of either artist or band, more just an admission that life moves on, and things that once seemed important can so easily fall by the wayside. Is Sleepwalkers the album to push me kicking and screaming back into Fallon’s brand of Americana? Maybe…

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Opening track If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven is vintage Brian Fallon. Catchy, melodic and deceivingly simple, the New Jersey songwriter has clearly lost none of his soul. Indeed, this album is more upbeat generally than pretty much anything Fallon has been involved in since the Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang. The faster songs have always suited Fallon’s voice more than maudlin ballads and Forget Me Not certainly feels closer to Born in the USA era Bruce Springsteen rather than Devils and Dust say. These are songs to played at full volume in gorgeous sunshine. Fallon has been criticized for flying too close to the New Jersey sun in terms of echoing The Boss but if you are going to sound like someone, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time isn’t a bad start.

Sleepwalkers isn’t all business as usual however. The jaunty Come Wander With Me sees guitars relegated to the background to make way for a softer synth led sound. It’s one of the albums best moments. When Fallon does succumb to the ballad it inevitably brings the record to a grinding halt. Etta James aims for Tom Petty but ends up somewhere closer to Bon Jovi and Proof of Life is one of the most turgid songs Fallon has ever put his name to.

On the whole though, this sophomore solo album is an improvement, both on his first individual effort and the most recent Gaslight album. The title track is a brass led stomp through an ethereal, lovelorn landscape and Watson is a slower tempo track that actually works. The album closes with the simple but beautiful acoustic number See You on the Other Side, a song that works as a spiritual sequel to the classic Gaslight Anthem track Red at Night.

Brian Fallon sometimes struggles to maintain his high standards over a full record, but Painkillers is as fresh and exciting as he has sounded in years. His music isn’t just mine anymore but it’s still pretty damn good.

Sleepwalkers – released 9th February 2018

Brian Fallon 2018 Tour Dates:
20/02 – Birmingham, O2 Institute
21/02 – Manchester, O2 Ritz
22/02 – Glasgow, O2 ABC
23/02 – London, Koko
24/02 – Nottingham, Rock City
25/02 – Bristol, SWX
08/03 – Newcastle, Boiler Shop
09/03 – Leeds, Beckett

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