Oh man, what did we ever do to deserve Brian Fallon? Having spent the past decade fronting The Gaslight Anthem; and now in the midst of the band’s hiatus, Fallon has released his first debut offering Painkillers. He had had some of these solo tracks written before the release of the band’s 2014 album Get Hurt but kept them on the sidelines as it didn’t fit the direction they were heading on. So you could argue, this debut album’s release has been a long time coming.
Being a frontman releasing the first solo album, following what was a poorly received album for his band, Fallon definitely had a lot riding on this record. But the beauty of it is, this isn’t a The Gaslight Anthem album so there was really nothing holding him back and restraining the creative process. This certainly shows in Painkillers, a stunning record with hints of folk, alternative, Americana and good ol’ hearty rock. With a slightly different sound on this solo venture, the classic, wistful Brian Fallon songwriting we all know and love is still very much there.
Introduced by a pummeling drum intro, the album kicks off with probably the most upbeat track on the record ‘A Wonderful Life’. This track is like that soft-centred hard candy we all loved as kids; Fallon’s recognisable raspy voice adding a certain edge to the song’s sweet melody. “Cause I’ve been hurt / I’ve been stung / by the good name of love / ’til I threw my own heart in the sea,” Fallon croons in ‘Among Other Foolish Things’, a track that breathes familiarity in his brilliant storytelling laced with nostalgia; reminiscing on the past and better times.
‘Steve McQueen’ is three and a half minutes of pure goosebumps; starting off with its soft finger-picking and slowly building up with each heartbreaking lyric – “This life is only chains / nothing like the colours in my dreams.” Another stand-out track is the piano-accompanied ‘Honey Magnolia’, another delicate ballad but this time also writing from the woman’s perspective. The heartbreaking guitar solo towards the end boasts so much sadness it had us holding our breath.
There is no denying the sense of familiarity in Painkillers, but that’s simply because we recognise Fallon’s unmistakable songwriting style from The Gaslight Anthem and not because it resembles their sound. No disrespect intended but we’re a little glad that the band took this hiatus so we were given the chance to hear this album. It honestly feels like a privilege listening to these songs, all so delicate and heartfelt.