Brian Fallon – PainkillersCultureMusicAlbum reviews
In his debut solo album, former The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon strikes out on a historical journey through wistfully reminiscent lyrics and a uniform style that calls back to earlier country, rock and folk from heartland America. Despite technical proficiency and a brace of standout tracks, however, Painkillers is more sleepy Midwest town than bold contemporary Americana.
With The Gaslight Anthem on permanent hiatus, Fallon has been busy, working on a large cache of previously unfinished songs, within which the singer’s musical and thematic inspirations are writ large. Musically, the 12 polished tracks that comprise this sovereign effort draw on some American greats: the airy guitars and accompanying banjos of Long Drives, for example, would be at home on any Garth Brooks compilation. Listen closely and you’re also likely to hear elements of Morrissey, Springsteen and Dylan amongst the variously traditional and more contemporary funk and rock compositions.
This is an album that doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to themes and messages. Delivered in Fallon’s characteristically gravelly tones, nearly every song, from the upbeat rhythms of Red Lights to the more traditionally folky Smoke, focuses on past love, be it self-destructive trysts or equal measures of pride and jealousy over a partner who turns heads wherever she goes. Painkillers, it seems, is almost totally preoccupied with lamenting these past experiences. Unfortunately, what is likely intended as both tribute and obituary for these relationships merely comes across as melodramatic angst. “I’ll be the one you never get over, a thorn in your pride”, Fallon recounts over the piano accents of Honey Magnolia, an anthem suited to cowboys and those in the throes of a breakup.
Unfortunately, Fallon never seems able to quite escape the draw of this format, perhaps knowing that, even if it isn’t particularly innovative, it will surely resonate with a significant audience. Although there are attempts to break from the mold, for example in the standout Mojo Hand (an upbeat stomper that adeptly combines bluesy progression with acoustic and electric elements lifted straight from country rock classics), this is an album that plays it safe and true throughout. Ultimately this is a solid but uninspiring effort that is defined as much by its cookie-cutter adherence to genre norms as it is by a small number of standout tracks, whose lyrics will appeal to lovelorn hearts everywhere.
Painkillers is released on 11th March 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for A Wonderful Life here: