Brian Fallon - 'Sleepwalkers' Album Review
1. If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven
2. Forget Me Not
3. Come Wander With Me
4. Etta James
5. Her Majesty's Service
6. Proof Of Life
7. Little Nightmares
9. My Name Is The Night (Color Me Black)
12. See You On The Other Side
When The Gaslight Anthem announced their hiatus in July 2015, their audience knew that frontman Brian Fallon wouldn't be sitting idle for too long. With a lengthy CV featuring several different albums under several different guises, Fallon wasted little time before releasing his first official solo album "Painkillers" in 2016. This year seems like it's not going to be a quiet one for him either as it was recently announced that The Gaslight Anthem would be firing their engine back up to celebrate the ten year anniversary of "The 59' Sound". First though, there's the little matter of solo album number two to discuss.
"Sleepwalkers" sees Brian carrying on ploughing his musical furrow. His influences carry over from his main day job as he marries the spirit of American Punk with the soul of Johnny Cash as transcribed by fellow New Jersey alumni Bruce Springsteen.
There's shades of Soul and R n B with the doo-wop opening of 'If Your Prayers Don't Get Heaven', something that wasn't often recognised with The Gaslight Anthem and it's carried over into Fallon's solo work. It's all finger clicks, muted guitars and "woo woo's" and is a gentle but catchy way to open the album. 'Forget Me Not' is a bit more punchy and again doesn't sound too far removed from his previous band.
A vintage reverb drenched picked guitar ushers in 'Come Wander With Me', a song that reminds me of Joe Strummer and The Clash in his approach to the song. 'Etta James', named after the sultry voiced Soul singer, is a lot softer and gentler than it's previous siblings, with Fallon singing about falling in love, describing the aching pain of loneliness that leads up to this and how being in his lover's arms becomes a redemption.
"She hates how much it rains but it's raining all the time" are the opening words to 'Her Majesty's Service' that marries acoustic guitars and hammond organs in a way that brings to mind Counting Crows, something that hasn't been too far removed from Brian's career to date. They both share a taste of the melancholy washed with melody. 'Proof Of Life' jangles along like a distant cousin to REM with Brian's confident vocals weaving it's melody over the top of a mandolin line.
'Little Nightmares' is a swift kick to the senses after the more sedate sounding previous songs, it's Garage Punk spirit slashing away with staccato chords. It's placement on the album works well as it helps pick the feeling and pace back up, especially with the "We can cry together through the bad dreams" refrain, installing the listener with a feeling of unity with the song's character.
A trip to New Orleans is on the cards for the title track as a horn section gives the song a second line Jazz flavour that gives it a slightly different feel to the other songs. A fuzzed up guitar riff, hooks you in for 'My Name Is The Night', a stomping chorus delivered after a near whispered vocal at times. 'Neptune' sounds throwaway, like it was added to bulk out the tracklisting. It doesn't really add anything for me and could have been dropped without much of a fuss.
Penultimate song 'Watson' is much better, shuffling drums and gentle organ backing as Fallon sings of "Detectives chase the one who got away", a song that paints a feeling of longing and regret without relying on cheesy over sentiment. When the closing 'See You On The Other Side' walks in you know the album's wrapping up perfectly. It's a great way to finish everything for the listener. The chorus lifts you from the tales of loves lost and missed opportunities that have preceded it and sends you on your way reassured that all is not lost.
For me, the album feels a little long. Dropping 'Neptune' and possibly another song would have made the album feel a bit more concise. The greatest missed opportunity though is by Fallon not allowing himself to stretch his musical muscle enough. A lot of the album sounds too similar to The Gaslight Anthem at times for me which is a real shame as Brian has talent and great song-writing skills. "Sleepwalkers" feels like a bit of a missed opportunity in that respect which is a little disappointing as rather than producing a great album Fallon has turned in a collection of songs that could have been so much better if he'd taken a few more musical risks.
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Review - Scott Hamilton