Most Anticipated: Brian Fallon – Painkillers
In this series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the upcoming albums WPTS staffers are anticipating the most!
By Daniel Day
Punk rockers, those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, and those lonely folk who appreciate heartfelt rock and roll the world over, shed a single collective tear at the news of the indefinite hiatus of The Gaslight Anthem. The split was primarily due to creative (and physical) exhaustion- the band has been a part of the tour-and-record cycle non-stop since their formation. They split to “recharge”, as the band put it in their letter to fans announcing the break. “We wanted to take a break, rather than going right back to making a record just for the sake of making the next record.”
Back in 2007, TGA stormed onto the New Jersey punk scene with their debut ruckus Sink or Swim, boasting some of the best lyrics and soul-churning ballads this side of The Boss. And they only got bigger from there. Doing such a thing is not easy, as main man Brian Fallon knows all too well. However, the good news is that the ending of one chapter leads to the start of a new one, this one entitled Painkillers: The Brian Fallon Story.
Ok, maybe not that epic, but the fact remains that Painkillers is Fallon’s first studio effort since TGA’s hiatus.
“The main difference [between Painkillers and a Gaslight Anthem record] is kind of going out there and being like, ‘Well, this is all up to me,’” Fallon said in an interview with ALT Radio 102.5. He later jokes, “If it’s not so good, then it’s my fault. But if it’s good, then it’s all my fault!”
Painkillers was recorded in producer Butch Walker’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Walker has an extensive career as a solo artist, as well as producing records for himself and artists like All Time Low, P!nk, Fall Out Boy, and, most recently, English singer-songwriter Frank Turner, with his excellent “Positive Songs for Negative People”. In other words, he’s more than up to the task.
Fallon and Walker worked “very closely” on the record. “We were kind of like a team,” Fallon says in the same interview. “We had this, like, ping-pong team thing happening, where I would throw out an idea and he would throw out an idea. But, at the end of the day, he really always left it up to me.”
Three singles have been released thus far from the record: The up-tempo lead single “A Wonderful Life”, the melodic, 12-string-led number (and apparent “lotto theme song”, he joked at a concert in Pittsburgh) “Nobody Wins”, and the most recent of the three, “Smoke”- a cover of a song by one of his many side projects, Molly and the Zombies. In fact, three songs on the record, “Red Lights”, “Long Drives”, and the aforementioned “Smoke” are covers from this project. So, maybe the record isn’t all original material, but the entire point of the project is to create new life.
Overall, the songs have more of a melodic and universal approach than Gaslight ever had, trading emotional snarling for soft crooning. This does not indicate, on any level, a loss of passion. The songs are still as introspective and romantic as ever: “I must have lived a lifetime without you/You must’ve ended up somebody’s angel”, Brian sings on “Nobody Wins”. Never let it be said that he’s an entirely happy musician. The good news is, he’s getting happier: “I don’t wanna survive/I want a wonderful life” He sings on “A Wonderful Life”. His fans are with him, waiting with bated breath for March 11.
Painkillers is distributed via Island Records.