BY DREW LACOUTURE
Brian Fallon, front man of Gaslight Anthem, displays his folky, alt-country side on his subpar debut, “Painkillers.” A solo project from Fallon was needed after Gaslight’s 2014 album “Get Hurt,” and while he most definitely has the talent to carry an album, his one-sided execution says otherwise.
Much like The Wonder Years’, Dan Campbell in relationship to his side projects, Fallon holds an interesting position in the music industry in which he gets to settle down from his punk roots.
This is not an entire 180-degree flip for Fallon for his ruffling vocals are just as prominent. However this record might be too easy-going and light-hearted for even the biggest Gaslight fans.
Being a New Jersey native, it seems Fallon has been studying Bruce Springsteen for there are many parallels to him in both style and settings (like the shore). It is charming, but Fallon is not afraid to tackle lyrical topics that a million artists like him have done better.
“Painkillers” is about love being a drug, “Steve Mcqueen” is about his childhood idle and “Long Drives” is about, you guessed it, missing a girl and coping by driving.
One may argue that Fallon is paying tribute to early singer/songwriter anthems and if that is the case, he does it almost too well.
Luckily, Fallon himself sounds great on just about every song. It is clear that he wanted to make this record and his gruff voice works surprisingly well with the acoustic guitars and breezy drums. Although this would have made for a much better extended play, for these tracks are not dynamic enough to carry an entire project on their own.
For example, “Smoke” and “Red Lights” are not only bland, but hard to tell apart before three listens. Even Fallon himself sounds half asleep on these two tracks, forcing even the most focused listener to zone out in the middle of the songs.
Another aspect that is sleepy is the guest musicians on the record. Obviously Fallon is meant to be the focus, but there is little to be desired here musically. Standard rock-country compositions, simple 4/4 rhythms and sadly no vocal harmonies.
While they are decent tracks, “Mojo Hand” and “Open All Night” had so much potential to be musically interesting, but listeners are treated to boring guitar solos and elementary drum patterns.
A song that will appeal mostly to modern country or rock fans is “Nobody Wins” and it definitely has quite a bit of radio potential thanks to its catchy chorus.
“A Wonderful Life” shares similar qualities and is an upbeat, feel-good opener.
The standout track here is “Rosemary” which brings some needed energy to the record with its faster tempo and solid instrumentation, although the “hey, hey, hey” in the chorus is the cheesiest lyric on the album and that is saying a lot.
Fallon’s solo output is by no stretch a bad record, but nobody will be listening to Gaslight Anthem and say to themselves “I should go back to ‘Painkillers’ again.” This is due to forgettable performances and lyrics that unfortunately hardly contain conviction.
This might be a good record for road trips and those looking for something outside of country-pop. Gaslight Anthem fans should precede with caution.
The Flyer gives “Painkillers” a 5/10.