Released on Island Records on 11 March, Painkillers is the debut solo record from Brian Fallon, better known as the voice behind The Gaslight Anthem.
When The Gaslight Anthem announced their indefinite hiatus mid-2015, I was decidedly disappointed. I’d recently seen them play a fantastic show at Glasgow’s O2 Academy and was gutted that this appeared to be over for the foreseeable future.
A couple of months later, Brian Fallon announced a series of Spring 2016 solo shows and I jumped at the chance to grab tickets….then began to have a mild panic. What if his solo show was going to take him off on a musical tangent!
I waited for the release of Painkillers with bated breath.
I needn’t have worried.
This solo album brings out the best of Brian Fallon from the song writing to that trademark gravelly voice. It’s the perfect mix of heartland rock, folk rock, Americana rock – badge it however you like!
It’s often been said that bands or artists from New Jersey are permanently in the shadow of The Boss. This album sees Brian Fallon take a huge step forward into the sunlight and create his own shadow.
Running to twelve tracks, painkillers opens with A Wonderful Life. This was the first single to be released from the album back in Dec 2015 and sees Brian stamp his mark from the off with more than a hint of Springsteen.
Title track Painkillers is up next and echoes of Tom Petty influences. (Has Brian deliberately done this to lay old ghosts to rest?) Painkillers is a beautifully written track, like all the others, and spins its tale effortlessly to the listener through its story time lyrics.
This whole record is a masterpiece of lyrical storytelling. Every track has echoes of the past or dreams of the future and is filled with emotions and nostalgia.
In all honesty, there’s not a weak track among them.
Personal highlights for me are Steve McQueen and Mojo Hand.
Steve McQueen’s beautiful acoustic guitar intro instantly transported me to a warm summer evening, sitting on the porch listening to the cicadas while this is played from the comfort of the rocking chair in the corner. It’s a song bursting with memories and dreams. For those of a certain age, who didn’t want to be Steve McQueen while they were growing up? Gorgeous song! I can’t wait to hear this one played live. It’s bound to be a goosebumps moment.
Mojo Hand is a total contrast in style. It’s very quirky. Its catchy and upbeat with a hint of 1960’s chaos to it. It reeks of Bob Dylan! It’s bound to be an audience singalong favourite if it makes the set list (hint! Hint!) I absolutely love it!
Brian Fallon had a hard act to follow after five The Gaslight Anthem records plus his album with The Horrible Crowes. He has more than risen to the challenge with Painkillers. I’ve read that to some this record feels like an extension of the critically acclaimed Get Hurt but I disagree entirely.
Painkillers sees Brian Fallon showcase himself as a songwriter and a solo artist. He has stepped out of the shadow of The Gaslight Anthem with a maturity and self-confidence to take on not only New Jersey’s finest but to take on the world!
I’m now impatiently counting the days until his solo show at Glasgow’s O2 ABC on 6 April. It’s bound to be a night to remember.