Release Date: 9th February 2018
Label: Island Records
Genre: Heartland Rock
Brian Fallon’s first solo LP, Painkillers became somewhat of a bible for me when I discovered it in 2016. Throughout the Christmas period, the Americana inspired soulful rock record saw around 60 plays as it followed me around like an ever lingering expression of self. Now it’s a rare treat, a comfort blanket and a record to press play on if I want to sing along at the top of my lungs to every damn word. Admittedly I expected Painkillers to be a one-off, something that Brian Fallon couldn’t possibly better the second time around, only replicate on Sleepwalkers. It’s been 10 months since the record was released: I think I was right, although that’s not a bad thing.
Painkillers was a man discovering himself as a solo artist and person after almost 10 years of being in a band. Although it wasn’t his first side project, the record seemed to be fueled by an expression of his recent experiences, love lessons and emotions he had to let out, it wasn’t neat but that just added to the charm. Where Sleepwalkers starts is by refining the gruff catchiness of Painkillers and turning it into pop folk-rock songs. Despite the sound of the two records being not entirely different, Fallon’s second release sees him seemingly upping the production quality, discovering himself and maintaining the Springsteen heart and soul that’s always followed him.
Reducing the rough quality of the music doesn’t necessarily make it better, but in the case of Sleepwalkers it makes for some of the best songs of Fallon’s career. The album starts off with 3 songs that feature choruses that live up to the greatest of any in his back catalogue; ‘If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven’, ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Come Wander with Me’ are legitimate classics. Almost every other song on the album is peppered with some kind of brilliance, but the problem with them lies in the fact that they fall into the category of ‘Any Other Brian Fallon Song’. On the surface this means that they’re mega catchy, charming and straight from the heart, which are all good, obviously, but there’s a problem when it feels like progression is lacking. Fallon proves at the start of the album that he’s well capable of writing incredible songs that sound indistinguishably like him while progressing the sound he’s worked hard to curate, but when you get down to track 6, ‘Proof of Life’, they begin to filter into the aforementioned category. That’s not to say the rest of the songs aren’t good or are all devoid of character, ‘Neptune’ especially is a stand out point of the record sounding like the ultimate assimilation of Painkillers with further progression. The album also ends far stronger than its predecessor too with ‘Watson’ living comfortably on it’s own swooning island and ‘See You on The Other Side’ being the perfect song for Fallon’s live set.
Clearly I have a lot of reverence for Painkillers and my personal experience with it meant that no matter how good Sleepwalkers was, it was always going to struggle to be my favourite. Neither of the records necessarily feel like complete bodies of work but where it added to the debut record’s charm it turns Sleepwalkers into a record that works best when you select your favourite songs and add them to a playlist. To write some of your best songs this late into your career is incredible though.
Punk frontmen turned folk singer-songwriters get a bad rep in the rock community but this record is nothing but Fallon doing what he does best; transforming his feelings into giant choruses and adding in yet another slice of his giant heart. I can’t recommend it enough.
Recommended Song: Come Wander With Me