Heartland rocker releases round two
At this point in his career, it’s pretty safe to assume anything Brian Fallon does will be one of two genres: punk or folk-rock. His mother was a member of a folk singing group before he was born. He grew up in New Jersey, heavily influenced by both The Misfits and Bruce Springsteen. He’s known best as the lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of The Gaslight Anthem, a band that combined the best of both genres: Fallon’s songwriting had the urgency of punk, but the soul of blue-collar heartland legends such as Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and The Boss. The Gaslight Anthem went on an indefinite hiatus in early 2015, which gave Fallon more time to focus on his solo work. In 2016, he released his well-regarded debut Painkillers and now has returned in 2018 with the follow-up, Sleepwalkers.
Fans of The Gaslight Anthem need not worry: Fallon’s solo work is just as soulful and charismatic as the band’s songs. However, without the full band behind him, the Americana element of his sound takes center stage. Not to say that the punk side of him is gone, but he has embraced the Jersey-rock side of himself far more. Seeing as Fallon has always been so good at writing in both styles, the songs don’t suffer at all. His vocals have never sounded so raspy and powerful and his lyrics tell of vivid stories in the minds of the listener.
The vocals, though, are what present a slight problem as the album progresses. The power in his larynx is great in a Gaslight setting, where he has to roar over thundering guitars and rumbling drums, but on the more acoustic tracks on Sleepwalkers, it seems a bit out of place. He’s not quite able to switch to a softer and gentler tone to fit the songs that need it. The other slight dilemma is that while all twelve tracks on the album are strong, none of them stand out from the others. It’s better that they’re all quality rather than there just being one or two that sound remotely good, but the lack of variety can be disappointing. Overall though, the good far outweighs the bad and both Gaslight Anthem aficionados and new fans will find it an enjoyable listen.