Since breaking out with 2008’s ‘The ‘59 Sound’, The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon has consistently proved his worth as one of America’s finest modern songwriters. Now with TGA put on hold, Fallon has made the jump to go solo, albeit not for the first time.
Decorated by Butch Walker’s polished production, the soft, alt-country tone provides a welcoming support to Fallon’s gravelly and thoughtful words. Opening track ‘A Wonderful Life’ is upbeat, optimistic and spirited, whereas ‘Among Other Foolish Things’ flourishes off playful guitars and an overall whimsical tone.
Elsewhere the jangly and infectious ‘Smoke’ is dominated by handclaps, highlighting the country-centred approach. At the other end of the spectrum is the somber and (slightly) sweet ‘Steve McQueen’, a poignant highlight with swooning blue steel guitars and Fallon’s raspy, compelling voice. ‘Nobody Wins’ charms you as it rides on a nostalgic wave with Fallon’s “pop” sensibilities on show amongst plucky acoustic and warm backing harmonies. Likewise, ‘Long Drive’ swoons in a ballad-esque fashion that is reminiscent of Johnny Cash as Fallon sings about an absent love.
It’s no doubt Fallon’s songwriting talents shine on ‘Painkillers’. A constant storyteller, he can capture your attention through a set of confessional (‘Open All Night’) and optimistic songs. Every song has an admirable narrative, even if the overall style lacks a lasting punch, while the soft, middle-of-the-road instrumentation makes the record often feel flat. Ideally the lively, punk-fuelled sound of TGA would have bridged the gap between the past and present. However ‘Rosemary’ does its best to fill this void, serving as one the albums most accessible offerings.
Whereas Walker’s production ties everything together for authenticity, ‘Painkillers’ sees a fine songwriter sounding content in an ideal Americana skin. Overall, it’s an intriguing but promising new chapter for Brian Fallon.
‘Painkillers’ by Brian Fallon is out now on Island Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)