Gaslight Anthem frontman returns with another round of “melancholy songs that somehow made us feel a whole lot better”
You wanna know my New Year’s resolution? Don’t ever again talk about Bruce Springsteen in an article about Brian Fallon. With his new solo LP Sleepwalkers, the man often touted as The Second Coming Of The Boss shows us why that label deserves to be retired for good. This will be the last time I bring it up… promise.
When The Gaslight Anthem’s sophomore record, 2008’s The ’59 Sound, caught the attention of New Jersey’s first citizen the comparisons between the two came thick and fast. Many came to see frontman Brian Fallon as Springsteen’s natural heir, their appearances at each others’ shows, as well as recent interviews only adding fuel to that fire.
“My name isn’t Bruce,” Fallon admonished his fans in a 2013 open letter. Changes had to be made and in 2015, fresh off the disappointment of the critically-panned Get Hurt, Gaslight announced an indefinite hiatus. Following up the folk rock-inspired solo debut Painkillers, Sleepwalkers seems like something of a return to form. A fusion of classic rock and Americana with a dash of R’n’B thrown in for good measure, Sleepwalkers retains Fallon’s trademark wistful lyricism with a large helping of the punk rock exaltation that Painkillers lacked.
‘Forget Me Not’ juxtaposes bright, upbeat guitar riffs and handclaps with decidedly sombre lyrics about being unable to move on from a relationship, even in death. “Would I get any rest from the wreck that I was with the living,” Fallon asks “or would you just go on?”
‘Etta James,’ a tribute to the late singer, harkens back to the soul/alt. rock stylings of his much beloved side project The Horrible Crowes and is sure to please fans hoping for a comeback from the duo.
The title track threw me for a loop. The saxophone intro and use of a brass section are quite unlike anything we’ve heard from a Fallon project before – but it’s a great direction to take. Closing the album is the acoustic guitar-driven ‘See You On The Other Side,’ a nostalgic exploration of the transient nature of life, love and happiness thematically reminiscent of older Fallon-penned tunes like ‘Nobody Wins’ (Painkillers) and ‘1930’ (Sink Or Swim).
Three years and two solo records since TGA last took the stage, and with the band gearing up for some reunion shows in celebration of The ’59 Sound’s 10th anniversary, Fallon seems to have finally made peace with the success of his early career. The producer is former Flogging Molly guitarist Ted Hutt, the same producer behind that pivotal breakthrough album. On Sleepwalkers, Hutt and Fallon have recaptured something of the spirit, if not the sound, that made his early records great, that of a band trying simply to make music they loved without trying to please the tastes of critics and fans. “Just remember no one’s singing for you,” Fallon said of the critics in that 2013 letter. This time he really means it.
“Don’t come to see Bruce,” the letter continued, “he won’t be there.” Nor will Tom Petty, The Replacements, Joe Strummer or any of the other artists that influenced the creation of this record. Don’t come to see any of them because Sleepwalkers is more than worthy of your attention in its own right.
Fallon brings his tour to the UK in late February joined by his new backing band The Howling Weather, as well as fellow Americana punk rocker, former The Loved Ones frontman Dave Hause.