As good as change may be, continuity and familiarity is just as great. And in some cases, it’s probably better. Here on the new Brian Fallon album, Sleepwalkers, the American artist has embraced some changes from his The Gaslight Anthem days, whilst maintaining much of what has allowed him to develop such a loyal and strong following through out the various incarnations of his career.
Ten years on from what put him on the musical landscape, the ageless The ’59 Sound (as part of The Gaslight Anthem), Fallon continues to come through with the goods as a solo artist. Returning for his second solo album, Fallon treads much of the same path he’s followed previously, falling back on reliable story-telling, song-writing and strong vocals.
When listening to Sleepwalkers, you can easily spot the influence of Bruce Springsteen, but that’s nothing new for a Brian Fallon record. It’s hardly a groundbreaking comparison; but it would be an injustice to Fallon to say Sleepwalkers is just a Springsteen covers album. Yes, it sounds like classic Fallon/ Gaslight Anthem, and yes, there is a definite Springsteen vibe to some of the tracks, but the way Sleepwalkers is pieced together makes it a distinctively fresh and impressive album.
It is clear Fallon draws plenty of inspiration from contemporaries as well as classic artists. The organ used through out the entirety of the album draws comparisons to the gospel and blues associated somewhat with Alabama Shakes, while the Americana sound and brass-busting sounds of artists like Elvis Costello and Tom Petty float through out the entirety of Sleepwalkers.
There are definite stand out moments through out Sleepwalkers that shows indications of what Fallon truly can produce as a solo artist. “If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven”, with it bluesy guitar and ripping chorus, is a prime example of one of these stand out moments. To put it into perspective, if I had to have a guess where he’d put it into a set list, it would either be the opening or closing track. That’s the instantaneity and impact it makes.
“Forget Me Not” is a little closer to the sound of The Gaslight Anthem album American Slang, as the chorus once more provides a stellar sing-a-long opportunity. “Little Nightmares” has the most infectious use of organ through out the album, and is probably the strongest song on the album. The key change in the closing moments is my personal favourite moment of the album.
Titular “Sleepwalkers” is an absolute blow out. This is the track you put on at the end of a wedding when everyone is feeling sentimental and wanting to end the day of celebrations on a high. It’s a real jaunt; the use of a horn and brass section is the true crowning moment of Sleepwalkers. The acoustic “See You On The Other Side” has an immediacy to it that draws you right in and leaves you thinking you’ve definitely heard it before.
Yes, there are moments on the album that don’t necessarily stand out to the listeners’ ears, but none of the songs are weak and don’t deserve to be on the album. With an average track length in excess of four minutes, there aren’t a heap of opportunities for the album to have those moments of pure intensity that help break up what can some times feel a little monotonous. This shouldn’t take away from what Brian Fallon has created here on Sleepwalkers.
For an artist who wasn’t sure if he’d continue in the industry, Sleepwalkers is an album that continues to show the ever changing and reliability of a truly strong musician. After all, change may be good, but sometimes continuity and familiarity are just as great.
Review Score: 7.4 out of 10.
Sleepwalkers is out now.