Two of my favourite people are fans of The Gaslight Anthem and by extension, Brian Fallon. The last time I saw the pair of them they were raving about his then-recently announced tour. Fast forward to last week when The Gaslight Anthem announce their return to UK shores to celebrate ten years of The ’59 Sound and the hype train from them gets fired up once more and I get invited as the pair of them are travelling to my home town. Would be rude not to at least meet them for a beer.
I know zero about The Gaslight Anthem or Fallon’s solo endeavours but sometimes those are the best gigs and indeed, the best musical discoveries. Sleepwalkers sees Fallon release his second album and true to form, knowing nothing going into the album has made for a great experience. For a start, it’s pushed me completely out my comfort zone and I love when I get the chance to be in that unknown space. For the most part, it’s a fun, bouncy album, as if Fallon has someone how managed to transform a late Summer afternoon drive into music.
It’s a wonderfully varied album and one that will force you to move. One which gets better with ever listen. Essentially, it’s folky, acoustic-driven with hooks and choruses for audiences to sing along with. The moody intro to album-opener “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven” turns the song on its head once Fallon’s gravelly vocals kick in to make it a cheery, gospel-inspired number which can’t fail to put a smile on your face.
Meanwhile, there’s screams on “Forget Me Not” and is one of the bounciest moments on the album. Ironic given he’s pleading with a girl to remember him if he dies, even if she finds love after his death. But the way Fallon’s crafted the song with its hook and lyrics and its musically upbeat vibe, you can’t help but sing along and it’s sure to raise the spirits of the most melancholy.
“Her Majesty’s Pleasure” poses that age-old question “Don’t you know what it’s like to be a rolling stone?”. The chorus is rough and scratchy as if pulled from the sixties by the band of the same name as they found their feet. Bluesy and pensive, he paints a thought-provoking canvas; a person who is seeking belonging, whether it’s a place in the world, a person or an ideology.
Perhaps the biggest departure from the album is the title track with its swing and big band vibe but with Fallon’s voice, it anchors one foot still firmly in the folkier side of things. Elsewhere, “Come Wander With Me” stays into a more indie sound of a few years back, the music more subtle and Fallon’s powerful vocals dominating the track.
“Etta James” and “My Name is the Night (Color Me Black)” are perfect examples of the Tom Petty/Americana/heartland rock feel Fallon is aiming for on the record underpinned with his croons. Whilst the former may have understated moments in the verses and a soulful outro, on the chorus, it’s a completely different story as Fallon roars and tears his way through it. The latter is loaded with emotions and if you take all their standard related colours, guess what colour they make if you combine them?
It may seem cliché to use that phrase of “all killer, no filler” but here, it’s undeniably true. “See You on the Other Side” sees Fallon strips everything back for the most basic song of the album to close it out. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, it acts as a summation of the album’s themes and acts as a great bookend to the opening track where it’s him losing the loved one but telling the departed he’ll be with them shortly.
Sleepwalkers is one of those albums which crash into your space with no acknowledgement and refuse to shift out of it. It’s also proof that good music, regardless of sound will ensure you hear it. Brian Fallon’s made the sort of album which gets under your skin and at no point do you want to claw it out. There’s a variety of sounds and some great songwriting at the core. It won’t be the heaviest music you’ve ever heard but you can’t deny the quality on show.