Brian Fallon’s second album sees him go further in marking a strong identity as a solo artist, and it showcases the very best of his song writing capabilities. Following The Gaslight Anthem’s hiatus, 2016’s Painkillers showed some truly great glimpses of how well Fallon could suit this role, but understandably with the split from his band happening so soon before, there were elements of an attempt to distance himself from Gaslight’s much criticised last album, Get Hurt (2014).
As a huge fan of all Brian Fallon’s work, I would say we have now entered the ideal world of a superb solo album alongside the recent news of the reformation of The Gaslight Anthem to celebrate their seminal sophomore record The ’59 Sound (2008). It is very much to Fallon’s credit that this record fills me with just as much, if not more, excitement than the latter of these two things.
Sleepwalkers opens with intent using two songs that Fallon released as singles in the build up to the album. ‘If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven’ sounds like it should be played alongside a train journey through the mid-west, and this celebratory American sound continues throughout and is done to the very highest level.
‘Forget Me Not’ sees a common Fallon trait of singing to a girl (Stacey, in this instance, not Maria!), but also showcases one of many undeniable choruses the album has to offer. Moreover, it has the knack of so many of his songs that let you envisage your own interpretation of what he is saying. This also goes hand in hand with the classic American storytelling within song that he manages to achieve, that to this day can only really be rivalled by The Menzingers.
Brian Fallon manages to romanticise elements of the past, in a way that still sounds brilliantly relevant, and not dated in the way that nostalgia often can. In addition to this, Fallon gives tributes to his favourite artists, most notably in a highlight of the album, Etta James, with arguably his strongest vocal performance to date in ode to the late star.
The following track, ‘Her Majesty’s Service’ also sees Fallon seemingly pay homage to Bob Dylan and/or The Rolling Stones by referring to himself as a “rolling stone,” reaffirming his character as someone who is never afraid to cite his influences in his songs. This song in fact lends itself as a tribute to Britain in general, aligning with Fallon’s previously professed love of bands like The Clash and The Smiths.
The album ends fittingly, with Watson encompassing a romantic letter to London and a fear of being alone wrapped by a contagious hook that are omnipresent throughout Sleepwalkers. See You On The Other Side slows down with a tale of the ending of life, putting an end to an album that goes against any possible negative pre-conceptions about former band members going solo.
Sleepwalkers is the best album Brian Fallon has put his name to in some time, and it showcases his established song writing and storytelling, as well as pushing himself to new sounds he may not have been able to experiment with in the realms of The Gaslight Anthem. He brings this album on a touring cycle at the end of this month, and if he translates this form to the stage we can expect one hell of a performance to rival Gaslight’s shows this summer.