Brian Fallon
Painkillers


4.1
excellent

Review

by Jom STAFF
March 13th, 2016 | 62 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: While there are no surprises, it's a record that Fallon absolutely needed to write and record for his own sake.

Sometimes, when people are feeling down-and-out, they don't need help or solutions or stare down an unanswerable "You know what you should do"" question -- especially when the inquirer has a pre-loaded solution. In times like these, perhaps they just need empathy.

Full disclosure: this is the only time I'm going to mention the loose association between Brian Fallon's divorce, the tepid response of 2014's Get Hurt with The Gaslight Anthem, and the aforementioned outfit's murky is-it-permanent, is-it-temporary hiatus standing, but it's unmistakable that the gravelly-voiced Fallon had more demons to confront. I still believe that Get Hurt was therapeutic for him, but it wasn't enough to expunge those ghosts for good. Instead, Painkillers is undoubtedly the album Fallon absolutely needed to write to move on, grow, and flourish as a singer-songwriter.

Speaking of ghosts, it was a brilliant decision to tap the prolific and perpetually-creative Butch Walker to assist with Painkillers. While Walker and Frank Turner created admirable work together on last year's resplendent Positive Songs for Negative People, Painkillers' essence more closely parallels Walker's country-tinged Afraid of Ghosts from yesteryear. Fallon's first solo offering sports a bevy of 12-string acoustic guitars, pedal steel, banjo, and mandolin, each of which complement bright electric guitars, lively organ, and tender piano. While it's true that there are a handful of songs Fallon created first with side-project Molly & The Zombies ("Smoke", "Red Lights", "Long Drives"), those songs seem to serve as a jumping-off point that deserved a complete studio treatment.

Throughout Painkillers, it's evident that Fallon's tried-and-true intimations - Petty, Springsteen, some Dylan here-and-there - continue to be benign specters in his songwriting. For example, when these influences are integrated with Fallon's knack for storytelling and character development, look no further than album opener "A Wonderful Life" and its rollicking snare that segues into a vibrant, full-bodied verse. "A Wonderful Life" and its "Whoa-oh-ohh"s are reminiscent of Gaslight, and truth be told, it's a song that wouldn't be out of place on any album between The '59 Sound through Handwritten. Whether he's George Bailey, performing through a different character's eyes, or speaking as himself, it's palpable that Fallon still adores massive, anthemic choruses. The record's title track, the revamped "Smoke", and the remarkable "Nobody Wins" also feature some beautifully-written hooks in those expansive choruses.

Painkillers' other indisputable strength lies in its harmonies. Rather than layering vocals, Fallon and company sang all the melodies and harmonies around a central microphone in an effort to prevent themselves from editing it later. The album's title track is a quintessential example of this, along with the soaring "Rosemary" and masterfully-placed closer "Open All Night". Meanwhile, "Smoke"'s ubiquitous handclap-driven antiphony and near-Bono-circa-The Joshua Tree vocal mannerisms carry undeniable charm, the robust bass from studio stalwart Catherine Popper buoys the refurbished "Red Lights", and the gorgeous guitar licks that percolate throughout "Nobody Wins" are truly sublime. Those familiar with Fallon's lyrical recital presentation will come to find no astonishing change in gears, but the singular bluesy stomper "Mojo Hand" is unlike any other song that he's recorded to date, whereas the solemn, fingerpicked "Steve McQueen" feels as familiar and comfortable as a hoodie and blue jeans in autumn.

As you might anticipate, the reality is that Painkillers offers little to those who've already made up their mind about Fallon. If you appreciate his 'old soul' shtick, his various side projects (The Horrible Crowes, Molly & The Zombies), and multi-character narration style, then Painkillers is sure to satisfy. On the other hand, if you've grown tired of the Springsteen/Petty allusions, gimmicky lyrical crutches, and his proverbial Rolodex littered with an assortment of women's names, Fallon's take on Jersey-imbued Americana is sure to exasperate. While it's nebulous at best regarding the status of The Gaslight Anthem, it's unambiguous that Fallon was hurting the past couple years and in dire need of a blank slate in order to take ownership of his past and present pain. Rather than sulking, Fallon recognized that perseverance and getting back to where he feels most comfortable - writing, recording, and collaborating - would rejuvenate his inner fire and blue-collar work ethic in order to start healing. Throughout this record, you get a sense that Fallon feels deeply connected to - and comfortable with - these set of songs. The album's congruence in theme, tempo, and tone is both consistent and coherent. Together with Butch Walker, Catherine Popper, and long-time running mates Ian Perkins and Alex Rosamilia (among others), Painkillers is a carefully-cultivated record that Fallon categorically needed to write.

Jom recommends:

"A Wonderful Life"
"Rosemary"
"Nobody Wins"
"Open All Night"



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user ratings (125)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
AngryJohnny (3)
Solid but uninspired...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Ponton
Emeritus
March 13th 2016


6366 Comments


yeah, i gave it a go and its good. Hey Jom!

AngryJohnny
March 13th 2016


857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Predictable but still enjoyable. Most of these songs are solid.



I'm just not sure Mr Fallon has really grown that much as a songwriter since The 59 Sound. Maybe this is the album that allows him to move on as you put it, and I guess time will tell, but at this point I'd be surprised if he ever stops singing about long lost lovers and the good old days. That would honestly be fine, but I feel he is capable of stepping outside his comfort zone and really becoming interesting again if he would just take the plunge and go for it.

TheWrenKing
March 13th 2016


1696 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I will forever have a soft spot for fallon and all his music

Snake.
March 13th 2016


21121 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i hope this doesn't sound like get hurt

Digging: Space Camp - Inevitable Demise

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 13th 2016


23927 Comments


yay, always nice to see a Jom review. Enjoyed the write-up! I can't really disagree with any of this...there's just something special about this album even though there aren't any big surprises as u mentioned. My favorite tracks seem to be changing with nearly each listen, and I love the lyrics/'59 sound vibe on several songs.

SteveP
March 13th 2016


99 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really great review, pretty much nails my feelings on the record, although I think it's a solid 4.5. I am biased though, as Gaslight are my favorite band and biggest musical influence. Rosemary, Nobody Wins, Painkillers, and Open All Night are all downright incredible songs.

Spec
March 13th 2016


35543 Comments


Probably gonna need to check this out.

Waior
March 14th 2016


11627 Comments


i will listen

the single was uninteresting to me

RadicalEd
March 14th 2016


9405 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

nice review. Will listen for old times sake, I was very disappointed with the recent Gaslight Anthem output...

Digging: KOAN Sound - Polychrome

BHAR
March 14th 2016


231 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, Mr. Staff.



I will definitely check this out as I am listening more and more TGA songs.

Pangea
March 14th 2016


2723 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty excited for this

JWT155
March 14th 2016


14182 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really enjoying this. Time for me to listen to The Horrible Crowes as well.

Nap
March 14th 2016


7 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Brian Fallon played safe. No surprises here. You can always expect a great album by him.

BigHans
March 14th 2016


29393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The guy can just flat out write songs. He has a formula, and sticks with it.

BigHans
March 14th 2016


29393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is really good. Just wish it was a bit more punched up, like more of the 59 Sound horsepower behind it. Songs are all well constructed though.

hogan900
March 14th 2016


2880 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

59 sound is pretty much untouchable when it comes to his other material imo. Probably because it's always been one of my favorites but i will check this out. Great review Jom!

BigHans
March 14th 2016


29393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is definitely better than Get Hurt and American Slang. I'd say its close to equal to Horrible Crowes, although its hard to compare the 2 since that was a bit more experimental and this one is really straightforward.

grandfather
March 14th 2016


155 Comments


Good to know this is solid, stoked to listen, will probably have to pick up this week.

TheWrenKing
March 14th 2016


1696 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nothing touches elsie tho

Sunnyvale
March 14th 2016


891 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Forgot this was coming out, super excited to listen now.



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