Ever since forever, Gaslight Anthem’s singer and driving force Brian Fallon has been tinkering around with his own projects. From the Horrible Cowes to Mollie and the Zombies, there has always been some sort of side project separate to Gaslight’s efforts. Now he’s departed from friends and projects and decided to go it alone. Painkillers, the debut solo effort from Fallon, is the biggest test of creativity in his musical career so far.
The good news is, the album isn’t half bad. The bad news for anyone expecting anything wildly new and experimental will be pretty disappointed, as Painkillers sounds like it could simply be Gaslight’s next album.
Lead single Wonderful Life showcases the blue collar Springsteen influences we have become accustomed to, with aspirations of a better life intertwined in the tale that sees the protagonist fed up with simply surviving. Nobody Wins follows on through the same influences, as a stereotypical down on your luck working class track, with Fallon declaring that ‘we were never gonna end up the lucky ones’.
Ode to Steve McQueen is the slow, stripped back number, with a basic guitar riff and soft drumming accompanying Fallon’s vocal. Part love proclamation, part love for the actor with sprinkled drug references, the track is both captivating and saddening.
Title track Painkillers is both the most Gaslight-like and the most memorable. A mid-tempo affair likening love to a drug, and those he doesn’t love as much as mere painkillers. It’s poignant and shows Fallon hasn’t lost his way with words. Smoke also showcases similar lyrical capabilities with a folky drum beat that will have live audiences clapping for the entire track.
All in all, it’s a mere stones throw from Fallon’s previous work, though many will argue that’s not a bad thing. Simply a softer and more raw version of what Gaslight listeners may be used to, Painkillers offers a more personal insight, which although lacking any out and out rock hits, is captivating enough it itself.