REVIEW: Brian Fallon – Painkillers

Brian Fallon ... Painkillers (Island Records).
Brian Fallon ... Painkillers (Island Records).

As frontman of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon saw the New Jersey band evolve from one of hundreds of punk wannabes to leading exponents of the sort of blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll which has so long been the preserve of The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.

When TGA went on indefinite hiatus last year following headline slots at Reading/Leeds Festival, many wondered what the main man’s next more would be.

Though he previously released records as The Horrible Crowes with his guitar tech Ian Perkins and has also performed live with Molly and the Zombies, this solo project was the answer.

Recorded in Nashville, it features producer Butch Walker on guitar, Catherine Popper (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals) on bass and the Scissor Sisters’ Randy Schrager on drums.

The record is very much a Fallon production, however, as he wrote and sings all the songs, and his cigarettes-and-whisky-soaked voice is to the fore.

Anyone who enjoyed The ’59 Sound, American Slang or Handwritten will love this record immediately.

There is real depth and emotion to these songs – something which was missing on TGA’s last release, Get Hurt.

It received extremely mixed reviews, and, for now at least, proved to be their last hurrah, but on hearing this solo album, you get the feeling Fallon was keeping his best songs in reserve.

It kicks off with the upbeat A Wonderful Life, the lead single, and that’s followed by the title track, which sounds like a hit from the opening notes.

Nobody Wins, Rosemary and the country-tinged Long Drives are fine songs, and Steve McQueen, a tribute to the tough-guy actor, is the stunning centrepiece of the record, carried by Fallon’s voice and an acoustic guitar.

Some albums tail off towards the end, but not this one. The quality is maintained throughout, and it’s a real shame the short UK tour to promote it doesn’t include a North East date. 8/10. GW