Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
Breaking from a well-loved band to go solo will always be a difficult step to make. Add the fact you’re on your ‘difficult second album’ and you find yourself in a potentially difficult and uncomfortable position. This is currently the position Brian Fallon finds himself in.
The former Gaslight Anthem frontman’s sophomore offering, Sleepwalkers, will be one more step into the world for a solo singer-songwriter now without safety in numbers.
It’s difficult to come across much literature about his musical style without stumbling on a comparison to Bruce Springsteen, and although there is still a thick vein of his influence in Fallon’s solo work, the comparison must be painfully trite to his long-time followers (and probably to Fallon himself) so from now on there will be no mention of The Boss… Having just name-checked him.
What Brian Fallon offers is something that belongs within a fairly crowded folk-rock genre and yet is not to be muddled with the numerous underwhelming artists that occupy that genre.
Thinking of the popular folk-inspired music around just now, there is a whole lot of furious yet non-descript acoustic guitar strumming and foot stomping. What Fallon gives on Sleepwalkers is something altogether more measured and resonant.
Those in the folk genre seem to have their acoustic guitars stapled to their hands, perhaps afraid to lose something that could now be considered their gimmick. Brian Fallon however, is armed with his electric guitar for the majority of the album and has layers of organ and bass, a solid, soulful foundation, on which he can play on top of.
If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven is the most anthemic song on the album and therefore probably the most characteristic of Fallon. The hand-clapping and train track rhythm plants the song in the avenue of soul. Helped by the vocals, which manage to stay strong without ever being angry.
Anger doesn’t seem to have much of a place on the album. Instead, what Sleepwalkers does, is urge the listener to live; to breathe in absolute optimism. That’s not to say the album is sheer cheesy cheerfulness. For example, despite being upbeat, Forget Me Not poses the unabashed, tragically romantic question of ‘Would you put your black dress on and visit my bones?’ That’s a Morrissey or Elliot Smith level of melodramatic sentimentality.
The album sees no dramatic reinvention or reimagining of its creator but that would go against the whole point of his music. I know I mentioned the word sentimentality but that’s not to say that Sleepwalkers or Brian Fallon are in any way mawkish. There is no doubt a harking back to an imagined or remembered better time but, much like Manic Street Preachers or Against me!, it’s this harking back, done with sincerity, which stops these artists from getting lost in the mulch of their genre.
Sleepwalkers release 9th February 2018.
review by Luke Hawkins