By Van Williams, Contributor
Key Tracks: “A Wonderful Life,” “Smoke”
When a frontman of a well established group embarks on a solo career, there is always speculation as to how that artist will fare without the band that has helped back them for however many years. For fans of The Gaslight Anthem, the band Brian Fallon is most known for, this transition will be less of a surprise than for lots of other artists. Fallon doesn’t need a band around him, for he has always been an excellent story teller – a great writer, accompanied by a voice that a fan base would follow anywhere.
The record starts on an extremely high note with “A Wonderful Life”. This track was released as a single in December of 2015, and was met with much positive acclaim. Fallon sings of wanting more, claiming “I dont want to survive / I want a wonderful life.” The record’s second track, “Painkillers” follows a Gaslight trend, with the second track of the album being the title track. This isn’t the only Gaslight similarity, however. The track sounds like something that could have been taken right off of The ‘59 Sound. This, however, is not a bad thing, as the song pushes the album along on a positive note.
The album continues to chug along with nearly perfect acoustic guitar melodies, accompanying claps and boot stomps. In the middle of the album’s runtime the listener is greeted with the song “Rosemary”. The instrumentation sounds like something that could have appeared on White Crosses by Against Me! or off an early Springsteen record. Fallon writes of being alone – “I’m just so tired of the empty sheets I sleep beside.” The record dances on the fragile line of feeling heartbreak in a way that never makes the listener too blue.
The closing track, “Open All Night,” puts together all of the pieces of the puzzle that Fallon is so good at crafting music that sounds like middle America, or playing catch with your old man as you pray the sun hangs in the sky just a little longer. Never has the ending of an album sounded so much like sparklers burning out as Painkillers. “You can’t make me whole, I have to find that on my own / But I held you babe, a long, long time ago / and we were open all night long,” Fallon sings as the album draws to a happy and reminiscent close. It’s not every day that an album can make an audience feel like Painkillers does, so when it happens, don’t blink – or you’ll miss it.