This lyric from the first track on Painkillers is the driving force behind the new record penned by Brian Fallon. With his band The Gaslight Anthem, now on hiatus, he wrote 2014’s Get Hurt; which was almost completely inspired by his painful divorce. Now Fallon has found a new hope in which this new solo project takes substance.
Fallon is one of America’s strongest and most seasoned modern singer/songwriters. He echoes Springsteen, Petty, Taylor, Vedder, and even Cash, and does a humble and careful job at it. All the while perfecting his own craft, and writing songs that have the right to be as timeless as hits like “Land of Hopes and Dreams” or “You Wreck Me.”
Painkillers has many special moments on it. Each song tells a story and evokes emotion. This might be fairly basic rock and roll, but like the greats he is obviously inspired by, it is working well for him for a new generation to appreciate.
The first track “A Wonderful Life” is about just that, and the afore mentioned lyric, Fallon wants his listeners to know that he is not focusing on his pain and sorrow. He is in fact taking it all and really trying to make something hopeful and positive out of it. People often say that out of heartbreak and loss comes the best art, but it seems that with Fallon’s new found outlook on life, he is writing some pretty good tunes as well.
The title track, “Painkillers” is next and it is about the pain of love lost, but it is also about leaving it in the past and moving on. You can tell even in the rhythmic tone and personality of the song that Fallon’s soul is walking out the door and leaving it all behind. This song will satisfy those that needed to know if Fallon had the guts and chops to stand on his own as a solo artist. Well, he does.
On “Among Other Foolish Things” we get an open ended echo-ey rock song where we get to hear Fallon’s voice sing melodies that are as beautiful as anything that you have ever heard. It will fill your heart and bring back high school memories of broken hearts and foolish fights, and that is exactly what it should do! An excellent tune.
“Smoke” has that classic Clap-Clap-Clap rhythm and Fallon’s raspy vocals breaking through his acoustic guitar buzz. It is an extremely beautiful simple song that is completed with piano and mandolin, and lyrics that will stick in your head like a great or terrible memory.
“Steve McQueen” is a song that I really can’t explain in words. You will just have to listen to it. You will know if you do. Headphones.
The track “Nobody Wins” seems to be about his ex-wife, but it is definitely a moving on song. “Hey pretty baby, I still remember you driving me crazy. Oh, if I never see you again, have a round on me love. Hallelujah nobody wins.” He seems to be really putting it all behind him and taking the steps forward that he needs to live his own life.
“Rosemary” is another good song with a sped up tempo and plenty of story-thick lyrics. It will definitely satisfy the hardcore Gaslight fans that want this solo record to not sway too far from that sound.
“Red Lights” reflect Tom Petty and Bob Dylan in the best of ways, rhythm and lyrics and sound. It is a much fuller song than they would have written, but those elements come through so poetically and help to carry on that Americana rock and roll that I hope stays for awhile.
“Long Drives” has that country twang that we were all expecting. It surprisingly works well with Brian Fallon’s voice, and the whole song has a chop to it that breathes the country and the rock together in seamless fashion.
The opening piano and lyrics on “Honey Magnolia” will probably make some people cry. I can’t get over how amazing Brian’s voice is morphing to fit so many styles and melodies. He is singing in a fairly high pitch, yet within his range and pulls it off quite well.
“Mojo Hand” is a very upbeat and fun song. It has funny and kind of dark lyrics that contrast well with the music. It is nice to have this song come late in the track list. It helps round out the more somber moments, and keeps the album balanced.
“Open All Night” is the closer and it ultimately keeps the message of moving on, yet it remains impossible to completely forget the past. Even so, all the emotional material that Brian Fallon had to write and make this record served as well as any human experience ever could.
Painkillers is truly a beautiful and well written record. Through and through it is full of strong moments, and it has an honesty that cuts like a sword through a tight rope. Every song is good and some are great. The overall feeling that one can garner from listening to Painkillers can range to many emotions. I hope that those who listen will see how special and deep it is.