Release Date: Feb 9, 2018
Record label: Island
Perhaps without even realizing it, Brian Fallon buries an interpretive key to his songs in the lyrics on his new solo album. "We sold our souls on the fantasies we found in records and black-and-white movies," Fallon sings on "Etta James," and it's all right there: peak Springsteen and early Brando, absorbed through late nights and too many cigarettes. The combination has served Fallon well on five albums by the Gaslight Anthem, as well as a previous solo LP, Painkillers, in 2016.
It's far too often the case that when bands are on hiatus, their members' solo careers and side projects simply recreate the music they are comfortable with in their band setting, but without the same high quality and memorability. This had been a concern when Brian Fallon went solo. His first album, Painkillers, was a wonderful, bittersweet set of songs, but echoed some of The Gaslight Anthem's earlier music closely.
Fallon decided this time around to color a little outside the lines, though. Sitting comfortably beside his Springsteen worship is some Motown flavor ("If Your Prayers Don't Get to Heaven" and the title track), a bit of country-rock ("Watson"), and some Elvis Costello bounce ("Neptune"). But Sleepwalkers, like Fallon's entire catalogue, mainly functions as an extended love letter to a time when guitar-centric rock was king.
Brian Fallon is - in the best possible way - the cosy comfort blankie of modern American guitar music. The erstwhile frontman of The Gaslight Anthem can always be relied upon for a hefty happy hour serving of anthemic rock'n'roll tunes that sound best crackling out of the speakers of a classic car or the jukebox of a dive bar, each pinned down by a voice made of gravel, broken glass and your favourite busted denim jacket. 'Sleepwalkers' is his second solo offering following 2016's 'Painkillers' and though it's hard to track evolution when you've a voice that distinctive, it's true that Fallon has experimented with more than just heartland rock and alt-country here.
Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen have flown thick and fast towards Brian Fallon's musical output since he split from the Gaslight Anthem and embarked upon a solo career in 2016. It's fair to say that Sleepwalkers, his second album, will do little to temper those comparisons; Fallon's preoccupation with emotive storytelling and heartland rock remains, occasionally flying a little too close to a musical rehashing than being the modern reinvention he's aiming for. Fallon has stated he wanted to create a "less serious" album with Sleepwalkers, and for the most part he succeeds.