Brian Fallon

Painkillers

Written by: MIN on 21/03/2016 17:53:28

If you have a taste for modern punk rock, you’ve probably heard of The Gaslight Anthem. Although it’s been a few years since they changed their sound to something less edgy, they’ve definitely left their mark on the scene during the late 00s. Critics and fans alike often compared the band to such icons as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, but the band’s frontman, Brian Fallon, always felt he had too many ideas to be just pigeonholed into one or two spectrums. That’s why he and Ian Perkins, The Gaslight Anthem’s guitar technician, released an album called “Elsie” under the name The Horrible Crowes in 2011. The album showed off a less rocking and more dark and slithering kind of song-writing from Fallon’s hand. But on Gaslight Anthem’s last album, “Get Hurt” from 2014, the two different approaches tended to intertwine too much, and many people thought the band lacked both direction and actual quality. A year later, they went on indefinite hiatus, which gave Fallon the opportunity to make an album of his own. The result is a charming handful of songs which lean more towards Americana and country rock than anything he’s done before.

When listening to Fallon’s “Painkillers”, it’s hard not to imagine the Nashville skyline or the open, dusty road he’s just pulled in from. When you immerse yourself into the lyrics, you can almost see him standing in front of his car while waiting for his girlfriend to get off work at the diner: Fallon’s always had a knack for telling a great story, and he delivers on several occasions here. The themes mostly revolve around regrets that make it hard to sleep at night, the troubles of old and new crushes, or how to deal with both of these while still being able to move on. But what’s most remarkable (and admirable) about his lyrics, is his praise for love: No matter how many times he’s been let down or gotten hurt, Brian Fallon has an incredible lust for life and the opposite sex. There’s always a glimmer of hope on the horizon, even in the darkest of nights. This is best exemplified in the chorus of the album’s title-track:

And we want love like it was a drug // All we wanted was a little relief // And every heart I held in between // They were painkillers to me

Fallon has always had a thing for catchy choruses, and this album is no exception. It’s been displayed several times on his previous albums, all the way from the songs “Behold the Hurricane” (The Horrible Crowes) to “The 59 Sound” (The Gaslight Anthem), that Fallon can turn the most detailed verses into a few catchy lines that you can’t get out of your head for days. Just check out the chorus on the album’s middle piece “Rosemary”:

And now I hear you crying over the phone // “Where have all the good times gone?” // Downing the glass of shouting matches // Lost in the songs they don’t write anymore

Musically, the album ranges from piano bar-ballads to southern country rock that sounds like an offspring of Bob Dylan’s classic album “Nashville Skyline”. Often there’s a subtle piano or a steel-guitar playing in the background which helps create the feeling of the South, at other times the songs lean closer towards stomping folk music. Butch Walker has been called in on production duties, and he also helps out by playing several instruments, including everything from banjo and mandolin to clapping and glockenspiel. Noticeable accomplices on the record besides Walker is Catherine Popper on bass (Popper joined Fallon on his short-lived side-project Molly and the Zombies) and fellow Gaslight-member Alex Rosamilia on piano. Although every member is doing a great job, it’s actually the backing vocals that impress the most on such songs as “Long Drives” and “Open All Night”. They’re just an octave higher than Fallon in just the right places, which results in some excellent harmonies that the songs would’ve been weaker without.

Very few things don’t work on the record, but it’s not flawless. The song “Mojo Hand” ruins a great flow on the second half of the record, and “Among Other Foolish Things” quickly gets tiring. Furthermore, the record doesn’t take many risks. It’s charming and well-executed, but musically it’s nothing awe-inspiring. Although it doesn’t have to, to be a good album, it definitely limits it. But if you’re looking for a record with non-stop great, relatable and digestible songs, look no further: Brian Fallon might not challenge any genre conventions, but with “Painkillers” he’s created the most charming collection of songs so far this year. It feels like the kind of record he needs to put out before moving on with The Gaslight Anthem. Fallon might sing that love is like a painkiller to him, but I think that he’s found a Vicodin of his own in the making of this record.

Download: Painkillers, Rosemary, Open All Night
For The Fans Of: The Horrible Crowes, Tom Petty, Chuck Ragan
Listen: facebook.com/thebrianfallon

Release date 11.03.2016
Island Records


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