It was obvious to anyone listening to The Gaslight Anthem in 2007 that Brian Fallon was destined to not only make a name for himself in the punk scene but larger rock-centric circles. Sure enough, it was the release of The ‘59 Sound just a year later that cemented him, and the rest of The Gaslight Anthem, as the poster boy(s) for the scene-wide trend of blending a little bit of Americana rock and soul into basement drenched punk rock. (Is it still a trend if bands are still doing it ten years later?). Three Gaslight albums, a couple of side projects, and one solo album later, Brian Fallon isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Armed with his signature gravelly voice and broken heart, he’s heading into 2018 with his sophomore solo LP, Sleepwalkers.
Brian Fallon is nothing if not consistent and Sleepwalkers shouldn’t be full of surprises for anyone who has followed his career. For all of the experimentation found on Sleepwalkers, the album is still very decidedly a Brian Fallon album. Whether it’s the motown flavor of “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven,” the Strummer-esque reggae rock of “Come Wander With Me,” or even the rock and roll saxophone featured on the title track- these aren’t things that Fallon has put to tape before- it’s done with the same style and confidence that he does with straightforward rock tributes and acoustic ballads, both of which he’s done plenty in the past, and both of which make appearances on Sleepwalkers.
Lyrics have always been a blessing and a curse for Fallon. No stranger to heartbreak, he knows how to put fears and worries into a three minute song, which is greatly appreciated by the hopeless romantics (or, just the hopeless). “Oh my Lily, if you only knew, I only want to be haunted by you” he sings on “Her Majesty’s Service” while on lead single “Forget Me Not” he laments not “[taking] the time to miss you.” Of course, many are just as quick to roll their eyes at having so little sleeve covering his heart (“And most of my sad life I figured I was gonna die alone” from “Etta James”), and they’re even quicker to scoff at the sheer number of borrowed lyrics (some examples: “I never knew [my father] so I bandaged the hurt, I pretended my daddy was a bankrobber” and “an English song by a band that you love, here comes the sun little darling”). Whether these Fallon-isms sink or swim depends on the listener, but it’s clear that Fallon knows his strengths.
Sleepwalkers never takes any great leaps forward, but much like Painkillers, it is a worthy addition to Fallon’s discography by adding some sonic variety. Mostly, though, it provides 12 new songs to sing while putting a positive lens on past loves and regrets. And that’s what people listen to a Brian Fallon record for in the first place.
4 / 5
RIYL: Dave Hause, Ship Thieves, Counting Crows